Wednesday, November 23, 2011

E-C-303 American Literature

v Assignment paper:E-C-303 American Literature  
v Topic                  : Symbolism in “The Scarlet Letter”
v Student’s Name   : Gandhi Pooja S.
v Roll No                : 08
v URL                     :
v Semester              : 3
v Batch                   : 2010-11

                    Submitted to,                                 
                          Dr. Dilip Barad                                           
                       Department of English              
                        Bhavnagar University
Ø Symbolism in “The Scarlet Letter”:
v The Prison Door:
                          The prison door is described as having never known "a youthful era”. It’s made of iron and is a little worse for wear, if you catch our drift. Yet, the wild rosebush that grows at the side of the portal is its saving grace. The rosebush represents kindness and forgiveness to the prisoners who must face either a prison sentence or a death sentence. The iron door seems to represent all that is strict and unrelenting in Puritan society, while the rosebush seems to represent the concept of "grace" or forgiveness. In Christian thought, grace is "unmerited mercy," that is, forgiveness of sins even though forgiveness is undeserved. Since the prison is a place of darkness and sin, the beauty of a wild rose bush growing in such an unexpected place is a symbol of grace.
v Pearl:
                      Pearl, Hester’s daughter, is a symbol of all that Hester gave up when she committed adultery and gave up her place in Puritan society. Pearl is a "pearl of great price, Hester has gone through hell and high water as a result of giving birth to a child. She lives in perpetual punishment because of Pearl, and that is why she loves Pearl so much. The name “Pearl” makes us think of precious jewels, and there is indeed something very regal about Pearl – we know that she becomes a great and wealthy heiress. The name “Pearl” also reminds us of the fact that pearls come from oysters, and oysters are hard to pry open at times. Pearl definitely is not an easy nut to crack – she mysterious and full of mischief.
v The Scarlet Letter:
                    The symbolism behind the scarlet letter A changes throughout this novel. Though initially this letter A symbolizes the sin of adultery, Hester Prynne alters its meaning through her hard work and charity. Some people begin to suggest that the A stands for "able," since Hester is such a capable woman. Others begin to recognize that the scarlet letter has begun to achieve holiness, righteousness. It has "the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness, which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril. Had she fallen among thieves, it would have kept her safe". Many years later, when Hester returns and voluntarily takes up the scarlet letter again, it has become, for her and others, a symbol of grace. 

Hester sews this letter herself while in prison, and the result is breathtaking:
On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter ‘A.’ It was……………………. which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age,…………………. but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.

                  By embroidering the “A” so finely and ornately, Hester takes control of her own punishment. She owns it. Though the letter causes Hester to live a lonely life of banishment and ostracization, it seems almost immediately to become a symbol for something far nobler than “adultery.” The letter showcases her talent and artistry – skills that allow her to make a living as a single parent in Puritan Boston.
v The Red Mark on Dimmesdale's Chest:
The red mark on Dimmesdale’s chest in the shape of the letter Ais the physical manifestation of the minister’s guilt. We are never given an exact description of this mark or its origins, but Dimmesdale tells Hester it is from God. Although he refuses to confess and be punished, his sin ultimately marks his body more permanently than Hester’s scarlet letter made from thread does.
v The Meteor:
                        The meteor in The Scarlet Letter exposes both a communal and an individual reaction. The Massachusetts Bay Colony community interprets the meteor-in-the-shape-of-an-A to be a message from God commemorating the life of the recently deceased Governor and proclaiming him to be an angel. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, sees this meteor as symbol of his own sin, as though God were trying to expose his secret to the entire world. He thinks solely about what the meteor means to him and him alone. More than one way to interpret anything.
v The Black Man:
                       The Black Man is a euphemism for Satan in this book. Hester considers the scarlet letter A to be the Black Man’s mark, and Pearl wonders aloud if the Black Man left his brand on Dimmesdale’s heart. Our narrator loves to compare Chillingworth to Satan as well. By invoking Satan, our narrator raises the question of whether humans are innately good or evil. A favorite pastime of the Black Man is to hang out in the woods and lure the locals to come hang out with him and sign their names in his book (with their own blood). Mistress Hibbons knows the Black Man well, apparently.
v The Forest and the Wilderness:
The forest and wilderness are seen as the home or dwelling place of evil by the townspeople. It’s the unknown. Such a wilderness is compared to the moral wilderness in which Hester has been lost for years: "She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness; as vast, as intricate and shadowy, as the untamed forest". The forest contrasts sharply with the town, or "civilization," the former representing a place where passion and emotion reign, and the latter, a place where law and religion prevail. Interestingly, Hester lives on the edge of town, on the border between wilderness and civilization. She straddles both worlds.

We associate Nature with kindness and love from the very beginning of this story, for our narrator tells us that the wild rosebush reminds all that “the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him”. When Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the woods, the brook and the trees seem to listen, talk, and to have secrets of their own. After a few hours in the woods with Hester, Dimmesdale becomes incredibly mischievous and unrestrained. The woods seem to affect people in interesting ways.
v The Brook:
                      Pearl plays on the other side of the brook while her mother and Dimmesdale chitchat is a particularly important brook. It babbles and talks, taking on an almost humanlike quality:
All these giant trees and boulders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook; fearing, perhaps, that,…………………. ……………….. and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintances and events of somber hue.
                          Like Pearl, this brook seems to be almost childlike and yet full of all of the deepest, darkest secrets. It seems to know everything, and it doesn’t seem to be a cheery, gushing brook out of a fairy tale. There’s something distinctly sad about this streamlet. Pearl tries to cheer the brook up, but it won’t be cheered. Her mother tells her that she could understand what the brook was saying if she had suffered something in her life. Pearl thinks the brook is too boring and gloomy to be a plaything, so she finds other things to occupy her while her mother chitchats with Dimmesdale. Pearl hesitates at the edge of the brook, and it forms a kind of divide between her world and that of her mothers.
v The Role of Nature:
                           Puritans regarded nature as a force of evil; the Garden of Eden had been the site of the fateful fall of mankind, and they perceived that Satan was often at work in nature. When Pearl and Hester Prynne meet Arthur Dimmesdale in the forest, the woods are described as being dark and forbidding – a place of unholy passions. It is in these woods where Pearl felt most at home; she too was a symbol of religious evil, being more in touch with nature than with society.
v Night versus Day:
                          By emphasizing the alternation between sunlight and darkness, the novel organizes the plot’s events into two categories: those which are socially acceptable, and those which must take place covertly. Daylight exposes an individual’s activities and makes him or her vulnerable to punishment. Night, on the other hand, conceals and enables activities that would not be possible or tolerated during the day—for instance, Dimmesdale’s encounter with Hester and Pearl on the scaffold. These notions of visibility versus concealment are linked to two of the book’s larger themes—the themes of inner versus socially assigned identity and of outer appearances versus internal states. Night is the time when inner natures can manifest themselves. During the day, interiority is once again hidden from public view, and secrets remain secrets.
v Regeneration:
              While Hawthorne's characters are sinners, many of them are presented as people who actually gain salvation and regeneration before the story ends. Hester acknowledges her sin and boldly displays it to the world. The symbol of her shame, elaborately embroidered, and worn long after she could have removed it, is proof that she is trying to hide nothing. Her salvation lies in Truth. In her conversation with Dimmesdale when she apologizes for having concealed Chillingworth's identity she says, "In all things else, I have striven to be true! Truth was the one virtue which I might have held fast, and did not hold through all extremity . . . . A lie is never good, even though death threaten on the other side!”

v Conclusion:
                       Through the use different words we can identify the importance of symbols and the allegorical meaning within the symbols used by author in the text.

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