The Scarlet Letter: Symbolism-Triads A bald eagle is a symbol for America. A lion is a symbol for of courage. A symbol is a sign or token of something, but when it comes to literary symbols things become more complex. The symbols in literary work do not have easily recognizable meanings.
The meaning of the symbol comes from the works from which they are a part of. The use of triads, sets of threes, in The Scarlet Letter can mean birth, life, and death or beginning, middle, and end. The characters within the novel itself create triads. Hester, Pearl, and Mr.
Dimmesdale are one major triad. This set of three represents birth, life, and death. Pearl has been born; Hester has life with the bearing the Scarlet A, and Dimmesdale is dying with the guilt of containing his secret. When Hester is standing on the scaffold holding three-month-old Pearl in her arms, the magistrates demand the name of the father be declared. Dimmesdale himself calls over the balcony, " Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life" (65).
The scaffold scenes also created a triad seeing that three times Hester and Pearl stand on the scaffold. What is symbolic of this triad is that it stands for another meaning of the symbol triads. These scenes show the beginning, middle and the end. The beginning of the book Hester was brought up to the scaffold for recognition of her sin. "Knowing well her part, she ascended a flight of wooden steps, and was thus displayed to the surroundings multitude, at about the height of a man's shoulders above the street" (54). Then in the middle of the book Dimmesdale walks to the scaffold in the middle of the night and sees Hester and Pearl walking and calls them up to the scaffold.
"Come up hither, Hester, thou and little Pearl" (149). The three hold hands on the scaffold while the town is still sound asleep. In the end of the book Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale stand together on the scaffold once again, while Dimmesdale reveals himself as the father of Pearl. " Come, Hester, Come!"Support me up yonder scaffold" (248).
Like all literary symbols the symbol takes on it's meaning within the text. In The Scarlet Letter triads can be a symbol for birth, life, and death as in the triangle of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl, but also, triads can stand for the beginning, middle, and end as in the three scaffold scenes.