Why does Hawthorne seem to like symbolism so much in both THE SCARLET LETTER and "The Birthmark"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Although Hawthorne is often considered a novelist, he thought of himself as a writer of “romances.” “Romances,” in Hawthorne’s sense, are less “realistic” than novels.  “Romances” are more concerned with expressing ideas than with depicting “reality” in a photographically accurate way.

In this sense, almost all of Hawthorne’s fiction – even the short stories – are “romances.” They use symbolism because Hawthorne is interested in conveying, as powerfully and memorably as possible, his ideas and themes.

Symbolism encourages readers to think about ideas, yet symbols can also have powerful emotional impact. By emphasizing symbols so strongly in his fiction, Hawthorne thereby provokes thought while also achieving a strong emotional impact. Symbols can also contribute to the unity of Hawthorne’s works, especially their unities of mood and tone.

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