Comment on the use of symbols in Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter

Question: Comment on the use of symbols in Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter.


Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 –1864) has used some symbols in his masterpiece “The Scarlet letter” for defense and makes his work praiseworthy. The novel has a good touch of symbols such as the rose-bush, Pearl, the scarlet letter “A”, meteor, and so on.

Dictionary definition of symbols

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “Symbolism is an artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind”. To put it another way, “Symbolism is a literary device used to convey ideas and qualities and to give them symbolic meaning that differs in their literal sense.”

Purpose of used symbols

In literature, symbols are used to signify the extended meaning of some images or expressions. Above all symbols are used to writer’s self-defiance because writers are the representative of the common people.

More notes of The Scarlet Letter

The scarlet letter “A”

Hawthorn’s has been depicted in his famous novel “The Scarlet Letter” the single letter “A” has two symbolic meaning in the first part of the novel the letter “A” is the symbol of adultery or sinner but in the gradual development of the novel, we came to know another meaning of the scarlet letter “A” it is able and has become the mental strength of Haster.

“The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her,- so much power to do, and power to sympathize- that many people refused to interpret the scarlet letter A by its original significance.”


The worldly meaning of the world meteor is a small body of matter from outer space that enters the earth’s atmosphere becoming incandescent as a result of friction and appearing as a streak of light. But in the novel meteor has an extended meaning that is As such, the shaped meteorite serves as another symbol of the book. The Meteor Revered at Dimmesdale is a sign from God that reveals his sin to everyone and convicts him unjustly. Others understood the letter as a symbol of an angel.


Pearl symbolizes the sin and passion of her parents. A reminder that she could not escape the sin of her mother. It is mentioned that he had the “Scarlet Letter in another form; which enriched life. Like the valuable pearl Haster’s daughter, Pearl was the more valuable to Haster. Haster accepted Pearl as a divine blessing.

“That little creature, whose innocent life had sprung, by the inscrutable decree of Providence … out of the rank luxuriance of passion”

The name of Dimmesdale

Dimmesdale’s name itself is symbolic. Her name contains the keyword “fade” which expresses feelings of frustration, weakness, and despair. This represents the stable state in which Dimmesdale finds itself.

“Come up hither, Hester, thou and little Pearl…Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together! “The rose-bush”

The Rosebush

Rosebush is mentioned twice in the course of the story. In the beginning, it was first seen as a way of nature to give beauty to those who leave and enter prison as well as provide a spark of hope for those who live there. In the story full of human sorrow, the rosebush is taken as a symbol of brightness.

The scaffold

The scaffold is mentioned three times throughout the novel. It is seen in the beginning, middle, and end of the book separately. It is a symbol of shame, confession of sin, and guilt for it where Hester received his red color letter as punishment and where Dimmesdale experienced his sin manifestation through meteors.


In the light of the above discussion, we may certainly say that Hawthorne’s famous creation “The Scarlet Letter” has been replete with symbolic expression and its proper meaning. Without symbolic speculation, the novel is opaque and disgusting but with proper realization and understanding of symbols, the novel is unique.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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