Darkness Cannot Exist Where There is Light
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter is nothing short of a masterpiece. His brilliance in the use of soft metaphors and symbolism is genius in its relationship to real life. Hawthorne expresses the good and evil accompanied with human nature and how it not only effects the individual, but how it is reflected in society. Hawthorne’s imaginative energy seems to have been called out in full by the continual correspondences that his theme allowed him to make between external events and inner significances. Sin is, without a doubt, one of the major components of human nature. There is a profound similarity in the experience of Hester and Dimmesdale to Adam and Eve. In both cases, sin results in expulsion and suffering. However, it also results in knowledge, and specifically the knowledge of what it means to be human. Hester and Dimmesdale are forced to contemplate their sinfulness on a daily basis which ironically leads them to personal growth, sympathy, and understanding of others. The Puritan members of society do everything in their power to ostracize, and punish the evil doers, but Hester experiences more freedom when she is isolated, which is exactly opposite of what is intended. Hester’s social isolation leads her to ponder and speculate on human nature, social organization, and larger moral questions. Hawthorne was also very creative in the symbolism he used throughout the Scarlet Letter. Some believe that the scarlet letter is meant to be symbolic of shame. This backfires in a sense because is becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester.
Pearl, Hester’s daughter, is also symbolic in that she is a constant representation of Hester’s sin, but she is also the greatest blessing Hester has ever received. In fact, Hester finds her ultimate reason for living through Pearl. The rosebush also bears symbolic significance in Hawthorne’s novel. The rosebush next to the dark prison door represents the classic “light at the end of the tunnel” theme. The rosebush represents so many different things; purity, optimism, and the ability of nature to endure and outlast man’s activities.This classic novel represents the quest for intangible knowledge humans always seem to be searching for. Hester truly is the rainbow in the dark. She is strong, not by her will, but by the situations she is put in. Although condemned, she is as free as a bird with her stoic thoughts. Although enduring a socially cruel punishment, she finds inner peace and salvation. She ponders human nature and begins to understand the ways of the winds. In human nature there is good and evil. One must take the good with the bad just like taking the day with the night. Perception and attitude are all Hester can change to help her endure this struggle. She learns that although she may not be able to change the wind, she can adjust her sails to her liking. All in all, this novel expresses multiple themes which all reflect a certain truth about life and human nature. This novel is a great tool to use as a source of inspiration, hope, and learning aide. Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter is nothing short of a success due to his ingenious use of metaphorical diction and soft symbolism, which both provide a healthy environment for the reader to learn and grow not only as a student, but as a morally conscience individual.