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Scarlet Letter Character Symbolism

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Elise Clark

on 15 November 2012

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Transcript of Scarlet Letter Character Symbolism

The Scarlet Letter Characterization Chillingworth is an important character in the book, and his role is described through his name. The reader finds out that he is Hester's husband and is determined to make her companion sinner "tremble" (62) and make the sinner his own through revenge. This determination shows how Chillingworth's personality is becoming evil. The definition of worth means to become, ("Worth") so the literal definition of his name is to "become chilling." As the story progresses, it is evident that as Chillingworth executes his mission, wickedness and retaliation are his dominant traits. Name Symbolism Name Symbolism People react several different ways to Pearl. When Pearl is younger, the townspeople treat her with disdain, the children look down on her and her mother, and some throw mud. However, near the end of the book, right before Dimmesdale’s confession, Pearl brings joy to people through “the restless vivacity of her spirit” (190). Through these distinct instances, the readers get the impression that the townspeople don’t quite know how to interpret and treat Pearl since her personality is different and unique comparatively speaking. She is a bit of an anomaly. Reactions Physical Description Pearl is described as “the infant [that] was worthy to have been brought forth in Eden” (74). She has dark hair, and Hester often dresses her in bright, crimson, expensive clothes. In this way she is the literal representation of her mother’s sin and demonstrates the consequence of wearing the scarlet letter. Pearl is also described to have “a trait of passion” (74) that indicates how her mother’s passionate actions and behavior were transferred to Pearl. Her age is highlighted at three and seven, and at both times she is a precocious child who is astute beyond her years. Pearl’s name adds symbolism to the novel in the sense that her gift of life was dearly paid for. Hester sacrificed not only her virtue, but also the chance to progress in society due to the expansive effect of the scarlet letter. Hester will never be able to get married or improve in the town's social class because of Pearl's birth. Because of this, Pearl is worth just as much as a literal pearl because of the joy and comfort she brings to her mother. This name also contributes to the idea that Pearl is innocent, pure, and a place the sun can sparkle on, similar to real pearls. Pearl Behavior Pearl presents a challenge for Hester because of her wild, fervant behavior. Pearl “could not be made amenable to rules” (74). Hester notices a “certain peculiar look” that was “so intelligent, yet inexplicable” (75). Through various circumstances, we learn that Pearl is very light on her feet, such as when she is dancing at the Governor’s home, while she is playing on the seashore, and during the last scaffold scene. The reader gets the impression that she is constantly moving, and Hester herself wonders if she is an imp and not a human child. Chillingworth Behavior Physical Description At the beginning of the novel, Dimmesdale is described as having "large, brown, melancholy eyes" (55) keeping "himself simple and childlike" (55). Just a few years later, he is "paler and thinner" (97) and putting his had to his chest had "become a constant habit , rather than a casual gesture" (98). Dimmesdale physical changes can be attributed to his sin that he is hiding from everyone. As the novel progresses, he becomes weaker and he physically changes because he continues to torment himself because of his sin. Reactions Because Dimmesdale is their minister, the townspeople always see him as a perfect person. Dimmesdale tries to tell the people about his sin, and yet they still call him a "saint on earth" (114) and believe he is just trying to be humble. When Dimmesdale shows the people his chest on the scaffold, they still believe that he isn't a sinner. Some believe that Dimmesdale carved a symbol on his chest, but others think that "Chillingworth, being a potent necromancer, had caused it to appear" (201). Yet others believe they didn't see anything at all. No matter what Dimmesdale did he was still regarded as a martyr who didn't make mistakes. Dimmesdale's behavior shows that he is a coward and is ashamed of Pearl and his relationship with Hester. At the governor's house he only defends Pearl staying with Hester when Hester demands that he "speak thou for me!" (90). Other times when he sees them he ignores them, yet he still wants Pearl to accept him. When Hester tries to introduce Dimmesdale to Pearl he constantly asks Hester if she "thinkest the child will love [him]" (160). Dimmesdale yearns for a connection with Pearl, yet he refuses to sacrifice his reputation and suffer through the public humiliation of publicly proclaiming his sin. Dimmesdale Dimmesdale's name symbolizes his clueless nature. His selfish attitude is shown when Hester tells him about the secret she had with Chillingworth to not reveal his identity. At first he is upset with her and then he "freely forgive[s]" (153) her. He's forgiving Hester when she should be forgiving him for refusing to tell anyone about his sin. Throughout the novel he always thinks of himself first and leaves Pearl and Hester on the side lines. Name Symbolism Physical Description Reactions Behavior Works Cited “Worth.” Merriam-Webster. Encyclopedia
Britannica Company. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Scarlet Letter.”
Clayton, Delaware. Prestwick House. 2005. Print. Chillingworth's behavior is completely centered on seeking revenge on Dimmesdale. He had "a terrible fascination, a kind of fierce, though still calm, necessity" (103) to inflict pain on Dimmesdale. His adamant desire to hurt Dimmesdale as much as possible consumes him as he "dug into the poor clergyman's heart, like a miner searching for gold" (103). Chillingworth feels that the only way he'll be satisfied is after he finishes he revenge mission.He becomes consumed with the idea of revenge and even moves into Dimmesdale's house to be closer to him and to piece together what sin is eating Dimmesdale. Chillingworth starts to work on his revenge by slowly getting closer to Dimmesdale. When Chillingworth starts to dig deeper into Dimmesdale's sin and looks at his chest, Dimmesdale "shuddered" (109) at the thought that Chillingworth looking for his sin. Hester also believes that Chillingworth's obsession with revenge is doing more harm than good. After she figures out what Chillingworth is doing to Dimmesdale, she approaches him and asks him to stop, saying that it was "better [Dimmesdale] had died at once" rather than suffer through Chillingworth's retaliation. Once other people start to figure out what Chillingworth is really up to, they also disapprove of his actions. Chillingworth is described as a "misshapen scholar" (49) and being "small in stature" (51). He has an intelligent expression, and at the beginning of the book is described as being dressed in "heterogeneous garb" with a mixture of Indian and colonial dress. However, later he is described as having a "guarded look" and it seemed like "a glare of red light [was coming] out of his eyes" (132) showing how he was becoming more evil as he extracted his revenge on Dimmesdale. Hester is surprised at how he has changed from a scholarly appearance to an obviously evil person. THE END Elise Clark & Melissa Funk
4th Hour Mrs. Dyer
13 Nov. 2012
Audience A.P. English Class
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