The satire in Voltaire’s CandideAnnonymousThe book The Scarlet Letter is all about symbolism.
People andobjects are symbolic of events and thoughts. Throughout the course of thebook, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Hester, Pearl, and Arthur Dimmesdale tosignify Puritanic and Romantic philosophies. Hester Prynne, through the eyes of the Puritans, is an extremesinner; she has gone against the Puritan ways, committing adultery. Forthis irrevocably harsh sin, she must wear a symbol of shame for the restof her life. However, the Romantic philosophies of Hawthorne put down thePuritanic beliefs.
She is a beautiful, young woman who has sinned, but isforgiven. Hawthorne portrays Hester as “divine maternity” and she can dono wrong. Not only Hester, but the physical scarlet letter, a Puritanicalsign of disownment, is shown through the author’s tone and diction as abeautiful, gold and colorful piece. Pearl, Hester’s child, is portrayed Puritanically, as a child ofsin who should be treated as such, ugly, evil, and shamed.
The readermore evidently notices that Hawthorne carefully, and sometimes not subtlyat all, places Pearl above the rest. She wears colorful clothes, isextremely smart, pretty, and nice. More often than not, she shows herintelligence and free thought, a trait of the Romantics. One of Pearl’sfavorite activities is playing with flowers and trees.
(The reader willrecall that anything affiliated with the forest was evil to Puritans. ToHawthorne, however, the forest was beautiful and natural. ) “And she wasgentler here than in the grassy- margined streets of thesettlement, or in her mother’s cottage. The flowers appeared to know it”(194) Pearl fit in with natural things.
Also, Pearl is alwayseffervescent and joyous, which is definitely a negative to the Puritans. Pearl is a virtual shouting match between the Puritanical views and theRomantic ways. To most, but especially the Puritans, one of the most importantmembers of a community is the religious leader; Arthur Dimmesdale is noexception. He was held above the rest, and this is proven in one of thefirst scenes of the book. As Hester is above the townspeople on ascaffold, Dimmesdale, Governor Wilson, and others are still above her.
But, as the reader soon discovers, Arthur Dimmesdale is his own worstenemy. He hates himself and must physically inflict pain upon himself. “He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith he tortured, butcould not purify, himself” to never forget what he has done (141). ToDimmesdale, it is bad that Hester is shown publicly as a sinner, butpeople forget that. What is far worse than public shame is Dimmesdale’sown cruel inner shame.
Knowing what only he and Hester know, the secreteats away at every fiber of Dimmesdale’s being. As the Puritans hold upDimmesdale, the Romantics level him as a human. The Scarlet Letter is a myriad of allegorical theories andphilosophies. Ranging from Puritanic to Romantic, Nathaniel Hawthorneembodies his ideas to stress his Romantic philosophies through Pearl,Hester, and Dimmesdale throughout all of this.