Symbolism within The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, is loaded with many different symbols. Nearly everything in this novel is a symbol but they all separate into different subcategories which are man-made, name, and natural symbolism. Many can argue which is more important but together they all are used to form this novel. The main focus will be on natural symbolism such as the wild rose bush, the sunlight, and the forest.
In order to analyze symbolism in The Scarlet Letter we first need a definition of the term. According to Erich Fromm there are only three types of symbols; one of the types being universal which the Scarlet Letter uses everywhere (121). Fromm’s definition of a universal symbol is “… one in which there is an intrinsic relationship between the symbol and that it represents” (123). Fromm is more concrete while Laurence Perrine isn’t because his definition is “[a] literacy symbol is something that means more than what it is” (172). Thomas Foster has more of an up to date definition which is: “[s]ymbols referred to is likely not reducible to a single statement but will more probably involve a range of possible meanings and interpretations” (98). All three of the writers have different definitions but all can relate to each other. The three consist of having a universal symbol which does in fact have a link to the Scarlet Letter.
First of the natural symbols that Hawthorne uses, in The Scarlet Letter, is the wild rose-bush. The wild rose-bush signifies the sweet moral blossom during the harsh Puritan time (Hawthorne 46). The Puritans aren’t exactly the brightest type of people, because when they first came to Boston they built a prison and a cemetery (Hawthorne 45). By the Puritans building both as soon as they get to Boston establishes how their life style is, dark, grey, and grim. For Hawthorne to describe a beautiful rose-bush outside of the prison shows how different something or someone is. This...