What is the most striking symbolic element in "Ethan Brand" by Hawthorne?

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a lot of symbolism in Ethan Brand.  From the Jewish man symbolizing the devil, to the dog chasing a tail he can never catch.  One symbol I believe to be the strongest is the “heart of marble.”  Brand is described as “simple and loving man, watching his fire in the years gone by, and ever musing as it burned. He remembered with what tenderness, with what love and sympathy for mankind, and what pity for human guilt and woe, he had first begun to contemplate those ideas which afterwards became the inspiration of his life; with what reverence he had then looked into the heart of man, viewing it as a temple originally divine, and, however desecrated, still to be held sacred by a brother.... (Hawthorne 796-806)

By the end of the story he is described as fiend and after he commits suicide his bones are found as a half a bushel of a good quality of lime.  And his heart was a stone of marble.  The Symbolism of the heart turning to stone in the fire is strong imagery of what can happen when we stop caring about what other’s feel or think.  When we use people as our puppets with no care for their souls then our heart becomes as stone.

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Ethan Brand

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