What are all the symbols Hawthorne uses in The Scarlet Letter? 

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brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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mkcapen1 | Student

In the book "The Scarlet Letter" the first symbol is the letter "A.”The letter represents the sin of adultery that Hester and Dimmsdale committed.  It is Hester who must carry the sin because no one knows Dimmsdale was her lover.  Hester changes the letter by sewing it in gold.  This symbolizes that Hester will wear the letter without shame. 

 Hester's daughter Pearl is also seen as the sin.  Pearl is the child that was created out of Hester and Dimmsdale's union.  Hester loves her dearly and always holds her towards her breast.  This is initially seen as her covering her letter, but in reality by holding Pearl to her chest, Hester is again putting the sin on her chest. 

Hester dresses her child in scarlet garments when Hester is called in by the tribune of men.  They want to remove Pearl from Hester because of Hester's sinful nature.  Instead of cowering, Hester presents them Pearl, who is so beautiful in her red dress. 

The name Pearl is also a symbol.  She does not name pearl after the gem Pearl.  Instead she names her Pearl Pearl’s existence is the price that Hester had to pay for her engaging in adultery with Dimmsdale.

"But she named the infant Pearl as being of great price."

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The Scarlet Letter

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