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Symbolic characters in The Scarlet Letter

Uploaded by Gotskillz on Dec 21, 2004

Symbolic characters are very important in most powerful novels. One classic that uses characters as symbols is The Scarlet Letter. This novel is about a woman in Puritan society, Hester, who commits adultery with her minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. She has a daughter, Pearl, and is forced to wear a scarlet letter the rest of her life. Arthur hides his sin and becomes extremely troubled. Hester’s husband, Roger, takes it upon himself to judge and punish Arthur for his sin and becomes like the devil. Many characters in the novel are symbols for something. Three characters that are symbolic are Roger Chillingworth, the young woman, and Pearl.

One character in the story that is symbolic is Roger, Hester’s husband. He is the symbol of a life consumed with revenge. When the reader first meets Roger, he is a mostly normal man.

He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which, as yet, could hardly be termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features... (p. 56)

The only unusual trait of his is a slight deformity of the shoulder. He is an intelligent man who spends most of his time reading. When Roger finds out that Hester has been unfaithful to him, he vows to take revenge on the man who sinned with her. Later he finds out that the man is Minister Arthur Dimmesdale and meticulously plots revenge. His life becomes consumed with the carrying out of his revenge. He himself sins as he tries to destroy Arthur’s soul. Roger soon comes to resemble the devil. He even notices this similarity in himself. He says, “I have already told thee what I am! A fiend!” (p. 158) Hester also says that she pities him, “...for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man to a fiend.” (p. 159) Each of them recognize that Roger’s life centered around hatred and revenge have made him like the devil. The symbol working in Roger, living to destroy, shows that tearing down another person causes as much damage to one’s own life. Roger is the symbol of a life consumed by desire for revenge.

Another symbolic character is the kind young woman. She is symbolic of hope in the story. Surrounded by people criticizing and being self-righteous the young woman alone has kind words to say to and about Hester Prynne. The first instance when she is kind is at the beginning...

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Uploaded by:   Gotskillz

Date:   12/21/2004

Category:   Scarlet Letter

Length:   4 pages (942 words)

Views:   12431

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