Symbolism works to tie the story's action to the story's theme. It began in the 19 th century as a literary and artistic movement that sought to evoke, rather than describe, ideas or feelings through the use of symbolic images. It is also defined as using objects, characters, figures, or colors to represent abstract ideas or concepts. A better understanding of the symbols will greatly help the reader understand the story as a whole. Hawthorne used it in many ways in The Scarlet Letter. First there was the scarlet letter itself.
Second, in his use of light and color. The third symbol was Pearl. Finally, there was the meteor. The scarlet letter is meant to represent shame, as it is a punishment for adultery.
It becomes, however, a vital part of Hester's identity. Throughout time, the meaning of the letter shifts, and, in my opinion, comes to stand for "Able." Finally, the letter loses its value and meaning altogether. And, ironically the Native Americans that come to watch the Election Day pageant think it marks her as important and dignified. The scarlet letter also functions as a physical reminder of Hester's affair with Dimmesdale.
However, there is no comparison between it, and the other physical reminder, Pearl. Ultimately, the letter points out both the meaninglessness and stupidity of the community's system of judgment and punishment. God has sent Pearl while the letter is merely a human symbol. Colors-such as red, grey, and black-play a role in the symbolic nature of the scenery.
In chapter 16, Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest with a "grey expanse of cloud." The lovers' feelings, which are weighed down by guilt, are reflected in the darkness of the nature. On occasions, the sunshine flickers, but Pearl reminds Hester that the sun will never shine on her sinful mother. The sun is a symbol of untroubled, guilt-free happiness, and quite possibly the approval of God. Or at the very least, His forgiveness. The next symbol is Pearl. As I said before, Pearl is a physical consequence of her mother's sin and a reminder of her transgressions.
She also represents the vital spirit and passion that provoked the sin. Despite this, Pearl is more than just a punishment. She's also a blessing. She serves as Pearl's reason for living, strengthening Hester's spirits when she is tempted to give up. A final symbol is the meteor. As Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold with Pearl and Hester in chapter 12, a meteor traces the letter "A" into the night sky.
To Dimmesdale, the meteor implies that he should wear a scarlet letter, just like Hester. However, to everyone else in the community, the "A" stands for "Angel" and marks Governor Winthrop's entry into heaven. As a side note, this event, which would be considered unusual at the very least by the average person, was normal for the Puritans; in fact, they commonly looked to symbols to confirm divine sentiments. As you can see, The Scarlet Letter abounds with symbolism. Whether in the letter itself, Pearl, the light and colors, or the meteor, we see how essential understanding it is to grasping the novel. And, for me personally, understanding symbolism at its core, helps me see how abundantly it is in fact played out.
In conclusion, symbolism ties the action in the story to the story's theme, and uses objects-among other things-to represent abstract ideas and / or concepts.