The letter: Informing symbol of “The Scarlet Letter”
The purpose of this paper is to study the meaning of the scarlet latter in the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The scarlet letter is the organic symbol around which Hawthorne's novel is built and through which he makes his statement about sin, and the guilt and sorrow that follow. Hawthorne studies sin in the framework of two concepts of law existing in that period of history in which the novel is laid—Puritan law and the new law of individualism broadly rooted in the romantic movement. Hawthorne works in his novel through four major characters whose lives reveal tensions that result from the conflict created by the two decidedly different attitudes.
The scarlet letter, worn as punishment by the heroine Rester Prynne, an adulteress triggers a reaction in each of the characters. This study analyses each of the four characters as they react to the letter. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)