Discuss the use of symbolism in Hawthorne's "THE SCARLET LETTER"?plz answer in detail

Expert Answers
jeff-hauge eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The name  "Pearl" is a powerful image towards the theme of human imperfection. A pearl is formed when an irritating imperfection (piece of sand) invades the pure vulnerable perfection inside the clam's shell. it is in the manner of how the clam deals with the irritant that creates something beautiful. By calcifying the grain of sand over and over, the clam creates something natural and beautiful. Pearl as a character is similar. She is the ever present reminder of imperfection. She becomes the beautiful jewel of the town.

dssnmurthy | Student

Hawthorne discovered the Scarlet letter 'A' in a mysterious package. He felt that there is some deeper meaning hidden under this letter, and so he expands as "Adultery" . The letter "A' becomes the symbolic in the story and not only  signify adultery  alone it become an object  of varied interpretations in the minds of different characters. For Puritans 'A' is for adultry, and Hester by wearing this symbol has come to live in a world of her own, where she does not confirm to the Puritans and the conventional creeds of the society. Hester is a complex character bearing the letter 'A' which comes as adlutery as well as in the word angel:

"a design like that of steeples and the pointed arches

of Gothic, Catherdrals, a shape leading the eye upward

towards heavenly things".

Thus the scarlet letter signifies lofty ideals and heavenly


The character names are also symbolic of different things which contribute to the theme. Pearl the daughter of Hester and Dimmesdale is a darling of her mother. The mother herself questions whether she is an earthly child:

"She seemed rather an airy sprite, which after playing its

fantastic sports for  little while upon the cottage door, would

hit away with a mocking smile".

The name Pearl refers to the pearl of great price, Hester wants  her daughter to as pure as a pearl so she gives that name. Hester is also a symbolic name of the old Testametnt, 'Esther" a srong , beautiful and defender of weaker sex. Hester having inculcated the similar virtues is a defender of weaker sex. Arthur Dimmesdale has links with King Arthur, the defender of Christianity. It is  this Arthur who is guilty of adultery. The two parts of his name, "dim"  'and 'dale' the first part reprsents darkness or weakness, the second , the valley or heart. The name Chillingworth husband of Hester also has a reprsentation. 'Chill' and 'Worth' denotes coldness and cold heart and also points out that once he was a meritorious person with his noble and academic tastes and sense of restraint and order.


Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question