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Radu Cozmei.

Nathaniel Hawthornes Scarlet Letter: Elements which Elicit

a Symbolic Reading of the e!t." #$%&'()# %E*$C'# + $S,R$C S$
-ERS-EC$.E/ Sim0ozion national. Editia a 1$/a. )ni2ersitatea de
%edicina si 3armacie 4r..-o0a." $asi: 'lfa5 67885 00. 89:/8;<.
Nathaniel Hawthornes Scarlet Letter: Elements which
Elicit a Symbolic Reading of the Text
Hawthornes mani0ulation of the reader into acce0ting the symbolic recu0eration mode as
the best way to a00roach The Scarlet Letter is shown to consist of a series of 0rocedures
which include narrators obtrusi2eness5 use of traditional symbols5 0lacement of ob=ects
meant to ac>uire a symbolic 2alue5 names of the 0eo0le5 e!0onents assigned to certain
characters5 actions or gestures that carry ob2ious symbolic im0lications5 symbolic thin?ing5
undermining the literalness of the story by the use of incom0leteness5 ambiguity5 lac? of
2erisimilitude5 coincidence5 and 0lacing the story in a distant time 0eriod5 0resentation
strategies such as antithetical configurations5 0arallel structures5 re0etition5 and the contrast
between style5 structure5 0lot5 on the one hand5 and inner and outer e2olution of characters@
other narrati2e solutions rely on achie2ing intensity by means of concentration5 selection and
dramatic irony5 and the 0romotion of an archety0al ty0e of meaning.
Aey words: Nathaniel Hawthorne5 he Scarlet #etter5 symbolic reading.
Readers do not need to be critical aficionados or fiction addicts in order to
e!0ect that some sort of symbolism should be in2ol2ed in the dynamics of a literary
wor?. Bet5 the o0tion to a00ly the strategies of symbolic recu0eration will be made
only after the readers are able to identify certain mar?ers which 2alidate their
symbolic e!0ectation.
'0art from the intense ambiguity of the title itself5 and the elements
included in he Custom House5"
Hawthorne introduces other mar?ers meant to
guide the reader in a00lying the a00ro0riate reading method. ,ne of these is the
narrators obtrusiveness5 his urging the reader to inter0ret the te!t and his
generosity"5 which consists in the tendency to su00ly a series of 0oints of 2iew5
lea2ing the reader the chance to acce0t one or another5 or to dismiss them altogether
and try and 0ro2ide himself with one of his own.
"he shift towards the symbolic mode Cin he Custom House"D is achie2ed with the
hel0 of the 0assages describing the disco2ery of the old documents and the fascinating 0iece
of cloth5 the 0rocess of literary creation and the characteristics of romance@ these fragments
suggest the necessity for the reader to ado0t a different mode of inter0retation5 which will
become an ine2itable solution during the reading of the no2el." / Radu Cozmei. Nathaniel
Hawthornes Ehe Custom House Re2isited." )ni2ersitatea -etre 'ndrei". 'N)'R. omul
$.. #imba si #iteratura. Casa de editura .enus. $asi. 677F5 0. 878.
Such a situation is occasioned by 'rthur *immesdales 0ublic confession
and the re2elation of the scarlet letter on his breast: %ost of the s0ectators testified
to ha2ing seen5 on the breast of the unha00y minister5 a SC'R#E #EER + the
2ery semblance of that worn by Hester -rynne + im0rinted in the flesh." ,thers G
who were s0ectators of the whole scene5 and 0rofessed ne2er once to ha2e remo2ed
their eyes from the Re2erend %r. *immesdale5 denied that there was any mar?
whate2er on his breast."
' large number of different o0inions are e!0ressed on account of the cause
that im0lemented the a00earance of the letter: Some affirmed that the Re2erend %r.
*immesdaleG had begun a course of 0enance + which heG followed out + by
inflicting a hideous torture on himself"@ others imagined that it was Roger
Chillingworth who has caused it to a00ear5 through the agency of magic and
0oisonous drugs. ,thers G whis0ered their belief that the awful symbol was the
effect of the e2er/acti2e tooth of remorse5 growing from the inmost heart outwardly5
and at last manifesting Hea2ens dreadful =udgment by the 2isible 0resence of the
latter." 'nd here5 Hawthorne ste0s aside and says: he reader may choose among
these theories."
$n this manner5 Hawthorne suggests that the 0roblem is worth
meditating u0on5 but he refrains from introducing a 0recise5 decisi2e5 0iece of
information concerning the matter under discussion5 thus creating a semblance of
ob=ecti2ity as well as gi2ing his reader the o00ortunity to 0artici0ate in the sha0ing
of the symbolic meaning.
'nother means to suggest the o0tion of s0atial reading is the use of
traditional symbols whose established meaning may or may not be 0reser2ed in its
entirety in the selected te!t. Such is the case of the scarlet letter itself whose
symbolic status is su00orted initially by the generally acce0ted obser2ation that
gra0hic signs ha2e5 in all cultures5 a symbolic significance5 sometimes in a twofold
sense5 corres0onding to both their sha0e and their sound."
%ore than that5 the color
red is 2ery a00ealing to the readers imagination: it is the hottest" of the warm
colors5 it is the first color to be 0ercei2ed by babies and the first to be described in
the de2elo0ment of language@ it has the greatest emotional im0act of all the colors5
>uic?ening the heart/rate and stimulating the secretion of adrenaline.

he placement of an ob=ect meant to ac>uire a symbolic 2alue is 2ery
im0ortant: its 0resence has to be made as 2isible as 0ossible and it should be made
a2ailable to the senses for long 0eriods of time and as fre>uently as the story could
0ermit its manifestations without transforming it into an irrele2ant and boring 0iece
of the scenery. $n order to achie2e the desired effect Hawthorne arranges for the
Hawthorne5 Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. An Authoritative Text. Backgrounds and
Sources. Criticis. Eds. &radley5 Sculley5 Richmond Croom &eatty5 E. Hudson #ong5 and
Seymour 4ross. ' Norton Critical Edition. 6
ed. New Bor?: H.H. Norton I Com0any5
8:J<5 0.8<6.
Cirlot5 (.E. A !ictionar" o# S"$ols. rans. (ac? Sage. #ondon: Routledge I Aegan
-aul #td.5 8::95 0. 8<6.
#ancaster5 %ichael. Britain in %ie&. Colour and the Landsca'e. #ondon: Kuiller -ress5
8:<;5 0. 8:.
letter to be dis0layed for three hours in a 0rominent 0osition during the first 0illory
scene so that the 0ublic could absorb the image and 0rocess it. he glittering >uality
of the design created by Hester and the dar?5 somber color of her dresses create a
fa2orable 0erce0tional conte!t allowing the letter to be easily noticed5 analyzed and
commented u0on by the 2iewers.
'n e>ually rewarding 0rocedure 0ertaining to the conce0t of fa2orable
0lacement is the creation of a status of unicity for a selected com0onent of the
narrati2e construction by endowing it with >ualities which are not shared by other
fictional elements@ such is the case with Hester -rynne5 as she seems to be the only
?nown adulteress in the land5 the only sinner wearing the infamous scarlet letter on
her bosom and the single 0oint of con2ergence of 0ublic interest and scrutiny.
-erha0s5 her 0rominent 0osition could ha2e been enhanced by the 0resence of a
0owerful o00onent@ instead5 the author 0laces Hester in an antagonistic relation with
the diffuse but ne2ertheless significant system of -uritan mentality and -uritan laws5
re0resented by less 2isible figures5 such as 4o2ernor &ellingham or the Re2erend
%r. Hilson.
he narrati2e in2ol2es the 0resence of both imaginary characters5 who are
cast in the ma=or roles and historical figures5 such as 4o2ernor &ellingham and (ohn
Hhile the 0resence of the latter grou0 ensures the im0ression that the story
is the rema?e of a real e2ent ta?ing 0lace in the history of the -uritan colony5 the
names of the fictional 0artici0ants5 their e!0onents5 their gestures5 and beha2ior are
all contributing to the creation of a symbol friendly conte!t.
he names of the 0eo0le ta?ing the center stage 0osition were not in2ented
by Hawthorne@ he 0referred to choose them from the set of names in use in the
English/s0ea?ing world but as the story unfolds5 their unobtrusi2e >uality e2ol2es
toward a symbolic status under the 0ressure of the fictional conte!t which tends to
0romote an association between the names of the 0rotagonists and their
characteristics. hus5 the 0ositi2e connotations traditionally attached to the names of
the two heroines due to their biblical references5 are confirmed by their beha2ior.
Something similar ha00ens with the male figures5 whose surnames begin to sound
a00ro0riate once we witness *immesdales tribulations and 2acillations during his
=ourney through the obscure 2alley of sorrow and des0air 0redestined for him by the
omniscient narrator or we follow the cold5 calculated 2engeful strategies
Chillingworth ne2er tires to 0ut into 0ractice.
he exponents assigned to certain characters suggest a symbolic reading. $n
a scene from Cha0ter 1$15 -earl is almost constantly bathed in sunlight5 she adorns
herself with wild flowers5 and the animals treat her with ?indness: ' wolf5 it is said5
/ but here the tale has surely la0sed into the im0robable5 / came u0 and smelt of
-earls robe5 and offered his sa2age head to be 0atted by her hand. he truth seems
to be5 howe2er5 that the mother/forest5 and these wild things which it nourished5 all
recognized a ?indred wildness in the human child.
Hawthorne5 Nathaniel. ,0.cit.5 0.F85 fn. </:.
Esther 6:8F@ %atthew 89:;F/;L.
Hawthorne5 Nathaniel. ,0.cit.5 0. 8;J.
he narrator5 carefully 0utting some distance between himself and the
>uestionable facts5 stresses the dominant feature of his character: that the girl is
0rimarily related to nature5 not to society5 that she is the re0resentati2e of an amoral
order of e!istence5 dynamic5 anarchistic and innocent.
-earl is also 0resented as sharing characteristics with the broo?: she
resembled the broo?5 inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a well/s0ring
as mysterious5 and had flowed through scenes shadowed as hea2ily with gloom. &ut5
unli?e the little stream5 she danced and s0ar?led5 and 0rattled airily along her
$n this case the enigmatic and dar? as0ects the child and the little s0ring
seem to 0ossess =ointly are com0leted with others that ha2e a 0ositi2e5 0layful5 and
airy >uality.
he same broo? becomes a symbol of se0aration in the forest scene5 when
-earl remains on the margin of the stream5 refusing to cross it because Hester was no
longer wearing the letter.
Characters engage in actions or gestures that carry ob2ious symbolic
im0lications. *uring the forest scene5 Hester remo2es the letter from her dress and
ta?es the ca0 from her head thus indicating a decision to terminate her submission to
-uritan law@ but this regained freedom is only tem0orary as she is forced to 0ut them
on again under the 0ressure of -earls refusal to a00roach her.
he introduction of symbolic thining is an efficient means to im0ose the
choice of symbolic recu0eration. he -uritan community described by Hawthorne
belongs to the traditional ty0e and is 0rofoundly attached to the analogical a00roach
em0loyed in the inter0retation of e2ents5 with reference to di2ine and magic
influences. he big A in the s?y5 caused by the light of a falling meteor5 is
inter0reted according to the se!ton G to stand for 'ngel. 3or5 as our good
4o2ernor Hinthro0 was made an angel this 0ast night5 it was doubtless held fit that
there should be some notice thereofM"
he same 0henomenon is inter0reted by
*immesdale as a re2elation addressed to himself alone5"
as a di2ine means to
recall his guilt and his duty. he narrator himself tries to moti2ate these
inter0retations: Nothing was more common5 in those days5 than to inter0ret all
meteoric a00earances5 and other natural 0henomena5 that occurred with less
regularity than the rise and the set of sun and moon5 as so many re2elations from a
su0ernatural source."

he abo2e mentioned instances illustrate the symbolic o0eration consisting
in the understanding of succession as causality. he only ob=ecti2e connection
between *immesdales crime and Hinthro0s death5 on the one hand5 and the fall of
the meteor5 on the other hand5 is 0urely chronological5 i.e. the former 0recedes the
he literalness of the story is undermined by the use of a series of
0rocedures which determine the reader to switch on his or her symbolic detection
0rogram. 'mong these5 $ could mention the im0lication of incom0leteness5
$bidem5 0. 89;.
$bidem5 0. 88F.
$bidem5 0. 889.
ambiguity5 lac? of 2erisimilitude5 coincidence5 and 0lacing the story in a distant time
%any readers e!0erience a sensation of incompleteness caused by the
absence of certain narrati2e e0isodes belonging to the logical e2olution of e2ents
such as the two years s0ent by Hester in &oston5 alone5 waiting for her husband5 and
the unfolding of the ill/fated lo2e story that brought together %istress -rynne and
the Re2erend %r. *immesdale.
-erha0s one of the most im0ortant inde!es of the symbolic build of the tale
is ambiguity5 which concerns the facts as well as their moti2ation. hus5 it is
difficult to decide whether there was or not a scarlet letter on the breast of 'rthur
*immesdale@ some of the 0ersons 0resent testified that they had seen the sign5 while
others5 regarded by Hawthorne as highly res0ectable witnesses"5 declared that they
had not seen anything of the ?ind.
,n the other side5 Roger Chillingworth5 at the end of Cha0ter 15 e!0eriences
a ghostly ru0ture" when he is gi2en the o00ortunity to see 'rthur *immesdales
bosom: Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth5 at that moment of his ecstasy he
would ha2e had no need to as? how Satan com0orts himself5 when a 0recious human
soul is lost to hea2en5 and won into his ?ingdom."
his demonic =oy is 0resumably
caused by the sight of a scarlet letter engra2ed in the flesh of the young man5 which
stands in confirmation of Chillingworths sus0icions. Bet5 one could say that
Chillingworth sees what he wants to see5 thus creating a desiderati2e symbol.
*immesdales 2erbal confession is also a matter yet to be settled by the
onloo?ers: Neither5 by their re0ort5 had his dying words ac?nowledged5 nor e2en
remotely im0lied5 any5 the slightest connection5 on his 0art5 with the guilt for which
Hester -rynne had so long worn the scarlet letter."
he ambiguity of moti2ation5 regarding the three main characters NHester
-rynne5 'rthur *immesdale5 and Roger ChillingworthO is another source of endless
debate. $t is not clear why the two lo2ers do not run away before the child is born5
why Hester decides to remain in &oston5 how it is 0ossible that a distinguished
scholar NChillingworthO becomes a fiend5 or what ha00ens to 'rthur *immesdale
after his wal? in the forest.
Ha2ing recorded some of the sources of ambiguity in The Scarlet Letter5 $
shall continue by e2o?ing the functions it accom0lishes in the te!t5 and the way in
which it acts u0on the readers e!0ectations.
Hith the hel0 of ambiguity5 Hawthorne introduces the mar2elous without
offending 0robability5 con2eys in legend or su0erstition a moral or 0sychological
truth5 outlines the 0ure form of truth by dissol2ing irrele2ancies5 creates sus0ense
and retards conclusions and mar?s the limits of human 0ers0ecti2e.
3acing this rich
com0le!ity5 the reader is su00osed to select and combine the semantic units in order
to create a coherent5 sub=ecti2e and integral whole which could account for all the
elements and the relations identifiable in the te!t.
$bidem5 0. 876.
$bidem5 0. 8<6.
3ogle5 Richard Harter. (a&thorne)s *iction. The Light and The !ark. Norman:
)ni2ersity of ,?lahoma -ress5 8:JF5 68/66.
,ne of the most easily detectable sym0toms of the symbolic mode is the
lac of verisimilitude@ the e2ents transgress the boundaries of scientifically
acce0table 0henomena5 and enter the domain of the fantastic@ in such circumstances5
the narrator warns the reader that the truth of the e2ent under discussion is to a
certain e!tent >uestionable:
he 2ulgar5 who5 in those dreary old times5 were always contributing a
grotes>ue horror to what interested their imaginations5 had a story about the scarlet
letter which we might readily wor? u0 into a terrific legend. hey a2erred5 that the
symbol was not mere scarlet cloth5 tinged in an earthly dye/0ot but was red/hot with
infernal fire5 and could be seen glowing all alight5 whene2er Hester -rynne wal?ed
abroad in the night time. 'nd we must say5 it scared Hesters bosom so dee0ly5 that
0erha0s there was more truth in the rumor than our modern incredulity may be
inclined to admit.

he narrator5 careful that the reader shouldnt miss the 0oint5 indicates the
right inter0retation: the letter is not literally su00lied with demonic fire5 but its
0sychological effect could be symbolically e2o?ed with the hel0 of the su0ernatural.
he 0hysical changes incurred by Chillingworh are introduced in the same
manner: 'ccording to the 2ulgar idea5 the fire in CChillingworthsD laboratory had
been brought from the lower regions5 and was fed with infernal fuel@ and so5 as
might be e!0ected5 his 2isage was getting sooty with the smo?e."
'ccording to
the narrator5 the considerations u0on the character of the old scholar5 0roduced by
the community5 are false from a scientific 0oint of 2iew5 yet they seem to 0oint to a
moral/0sychological truth.
'nother efficient sign/0ost" signaling the o00ortunity to use symbolic
reading is the coincidence: Chillingworth returns from $ndian ca0ti2ity =ust in time
to see Hester on the scaffold NCha0ter 9O@ the four im0ortant characters meet on the
0latform of the 0illory NCha0ter 1$$O5 and in the garden of the 4o2ernor &ellingham
NCha0ter .$$O@ their 0resence in the same 0lace is 0urely accidental"5 and it 0lays an
im0ortant 0art in the economy of the literary structure@ another coincidence is the
fact that the house of the old widow5 where 'rthur *immesdale and Roger
Chillingworth dwell in 0erfect harmony"5 was built =ust near the gra2eyard@ this
somber neighborhood is concei2ed as a reinforcement of the gloomy atmos0here5
surrounding the two characters5 a 0ermanent remembrance of the final destination
characteristic of all mortals5 and a means to foreshadow the issue of the tale.
he creation of the 0ro0er conte!t for symbolic recu0eration includes the
de2elo0ment of the story in a distant period in time5 in an e0och which cannot be
understood by the reader by direct contact with the 0eo0le and the e2ents described
in the te!t. hus the reader can be mani0ulated into acce0ting the writers 0oint of
2iew without ha2ing to reconcile it with his ?nowledge of 0recise5 un>uestionable5
historically 2alid details that interfere with the authors 0ers0ecti2e. Se2enteenth
century &oston is a familiar 0lace for Hawthorne5 due to his ?nowledge of -uritan
history while for the lay reader it is nothing but a site one has to a00roach with the
means of imagination and sus0ended disbelief."
Hawthorne5 Nathaniel. ,0.cit.5 0. LJ.
$bidem5 0. :;.
'nother set of means designed to con2ince the reader that there is more to
the story than what can be seen at first sight consists in the use of presentation
strategies such as antithetical configurations5 0arallel structures5 re0etition5 and the
contrast between style5 structure5 0lot5 on the one hand5 and inner and outer
e2olution of characters.
he antithetical configurations contribute to the selection of symbolic
recu0eration. Such o00ositions include5 for e!am0le5 the contrast between Hesters
condition as a 0unished sinner5 standing with -earl in her arms on the 0latform and
her a00earance described by the narrator as e2o?ing the image of *i2ine
%aternityGthat sacred image of sinless motherhood5 whose infant was to redeem
the world"
@ Hesters ho0e to abandon the letter and the intense suffering she has to
bear in the mar?et 0lace5 on the Election *ay5 the contradictory meanings assigned
to the letter N'dulteress5 'ble5 'ngelO and the res0ecti2e situations of Hester and
-earl5 as re0resentati2es of the letter but in different ways.
he parallel structures are also mar?ers of a symbolic te!ture.
*immesdales sin is echoed in the ta0estry 0ro2ided by Chillingworth re0resenting
Nathans terrible condemnation of Aing *a2id5 who had sent )riah to certain death
in battle in order to obtain his wife5 &athsheba."
*immesdales concealment of
his deed re2erberates in Chillingworths theory of hidden secret initiated as a
comment on the herbs that grew from a dead mans heart ty0ifying some hideous
secret that was buried with him5 and which he had done better to confess during his

Repetition is one of the highly efficient modalities writers use in order to
build the symbolic status of 2arious elements in a story. his method reaches a
clima! in the case of the almost ubi>uitous scarlet letter"5 also mentioned as
emblem5" scarlet to?en5" to?en of sin5" mystic to?en5" hateful to?en5"
stigma5" embroidered badge5" or mystic symbol." his semiotic 0resence
dominates the e!istence of the main characters and is constantly obser2ed by the
local community.
'n efficient method to draw attention to the e!istence of the symbolic
dimension of a te!t is the use of an alternation of fragments containing symbolic
elements with 0aragra0hs offering realistic descri0tions@ thus5 the densely symbolic
cha0ter entitled he -rison/*oor5" which o0ens the story is followed by he
%ar?et/-lace" which 0ro2ides the reader with a 2ery down/to/earth 0resentation of
the -uritan women in the crowd waiting for the cul0rit to recei2e her sentence: he
bright morning sun5 therefore5 shone on broad shoulders and well/de2elo0ed busts5
and on round and ruddy chee?s5 that had ri0ened in the far/off island5 and had hardly
yet grown 0aler or thinner in the atmos0here of New England."
he contrast between the style5 the structure5 and the 0lot5 and the inner and
outer de2elo0ment of the characters 0lays also a notable 0art in the tension
de2elo0ing between the conte!t and the readers 0erce0tion of the te!t and ma?es
0ossible the symbolic recu0eration.
$bidem5 0. ;F.
$bidem5 0. :95 fn. :.
$bidem5 0. :J.
$bidem5 0. ;8.
he style is characterized by clarity of design5 classic balance5 lucid
language5 dignity and centrality@ it is self/0ossessed5 and dis0lays a carefully de2ised
admi!ture of gra2ity5 irony and humor.
he structure e!hibits such >ualities as
symmetry5 clarity and 0ro0ortion. he tale is com0osed of twenty four cha0ters
which are organized as follows: the 0rologue NCha0ter $O5 the e0ilogue NCha0ter
11$.O5 three climatic moments NCha0ter $$5 1$$ and 11$$$O5 two less dramatic ones5
each com0rising two cha0ters N.$$/.$$$ and 1.$$/1.$$$O5 and se2en cha0ters
de2oted to the main characters NHester -rynne in Cha0ters .5 1$$$ and 11$.5 'rthur
*immesdale in Cha0ters 1$ and 115 R. Chillingworth in cha0ter $1 and -earl in
cha0ter .$O. he de2elo0ment of the 0lot is rhythmical@ the more dynamic instances
are followed by 0eriods of relati2e calm and 0eace.
,n the other side5 the social/0sychological le2el is mar?ed by an
increasingly destructi2e imbalance@ with the e!ce0tion of the forest scene5 when the
e>uilibrium is about to be restored5 the e2olution of the three adult 0rotagonists is
continuously marred by the malefic influence of the scarlet symbol5 ultimately
leading to the 0hysical decay and the death of both 'rthur *immesdale and Roger
'nother inde! that induces the symbolic recu0eration is the intensity of The
Scarlet Letter5 which is achie2ed by means of concentration5 selection and dramatic
he concentration results first of all from the almost com0act dar?ness of
the boo?5 and the number of characters NfourO5 which are all closely connected with
the central symbol Nthe scarlet AO.
' good e!am0le of concentration is 0ro2ided by the 2ery short cha0ter5 he
-rison/*oor5" in which the author introduces a limited number of symbolic elements
whose im0act is enhanced by the density of the cha0ter and by the absence of the
0rotagonists whose 0resence could ha2e 0re2ented the 0rison/door5" the unsightly
2egetation" and the wild rose/bush" from being recorded in the memory of the
he accumulation of three or more symbolic elements in the same scene or
section of the te!t generates a ty0e of symbolic concentration that readers are
su00osed to notice: a0art from the already mentioned -rison/*oor" cha0ter5 similar
situations occur in Cha0ter .$$5 he 4o2ernors Hall5" in which &ellinghams
house decorations5 his garden and the suit of mail are associated for symbolic
0ur0oses5 and in the Cha0ter 1$$5 he %inisters .igil5" where the famous meteor
scene is e!0loited in a similar manner.
he selection affects both the whole e0isodes ma?ing u0 the story and the
elements highlighted within each of them so that 0ractically there is no scene or
com0onent which could be termed as redundant.
'nother as0ect 0ertaining to the authors selections in matters of narrati2e
content is his sur0risingly modern idea of starting the story abru0tly5 with the first
0illory scene re0resenting a moment of high emotional tension5 meant to ca0ture the
readers attention and to end the romance without a ha00y ending5 as -earls distant
Euro0ean success cannot o2ershadow the dar?5 o2erwhelming 2iew of the cemetery
3ogle5 o0.cit.5 00. ;/F.
3ogle5 o0.cit.5 0. 89<.
where the bodies of Hester -rynne and 'rthur *immestdale rest under a tombstone
still 0reser2ing the image of the semiotic nemesis that mar?ed their e!istence.
he dramatic irony is determined by the theme of secret sin and
concealment@ both 'rthur *immesdale and Roger Chillingworth ha2e something to
hide@ the former5 his sin5 and the latter his identity and his search for Hesters lo2er.
he irony is threefold: the writer ?nows what the characters and the reader do not
?now@ the reader is ac>uainted with certain data which remain un?nown to the
characters or e2en to the writer himself@ certain characters are aware of facts which
remain obscure for other characters. ' most dramatic e!0loitation of this 0rocedure
is illustrated by the situation in which *immesdale5 in the 0resence of the -uritan
magistrates and the inhabitants of &oston is forced to as? Hester to disclose the
identity of her fellow/sinner5" a re>uest she firmly re=ects.
hese factors that im0lement the intensity of the boo? tend to im0ose an
e!cessi2e regularity5 which is successfully counterbalanced by a 2eil of ambiguity.
'nother inde! of the symbolic structure is the type of meaning Hawthorne
stri?es to achie2e in the minds of the readers. His aim is not the a00rehension of the
actual world@ he tends to 0resent archety0al models of being5 to transgress the
indi2idual5 the accidental and to reach the general@ here is an elo>uent sentence
ta?en from the second 0aragra0h of the first cha0ter: he founders of a new colony5
whate2er )to0ia of human 2irtue and ha00iness they might originally 0ro=ect5 ha2e
in2ariably recognized it among their earliest 0ractical necessities to allot a 0ortion of
the 2irgin soil as a cemetery5 and another 0ortion as the site of a 0rison."

3rom the 2ery beginning5 Hawthorne stresses the fact that the &ostonian
community is any community5 and that the 0resence of E2il under its two forms5 the
natural one NdeathO and the moral one N0risonO5 is ine2itable. %ore than that5 the
entire story is dominated by the effects of E2il5 while 4oodness 0lays only a
secondary 0art.
he e!0osure to such a massi2e 0ersuasion attac? in2ol2ing the use of a 2ast
armamentarium of literary and 0sychological means is ine2itably 0lacing the
educated reader in a 2antage 0oint allowing an e!cellent 2iew of the symbolically
charged landsca0e of The Scarlet Letter.
8. Cirlot5 (.E. A !ictionar" o# S"$ols. rans. (ac? Sage. #ondon: Routledge I Aegan
-aul #td.5 8::9.
6. Cozmei5 Radu. Nathaniel Hawthornes Ehe Custom House Re2isited."
)ni2ersitatea -etre 'ndrei". 'N)'R. omul $.. #imba si #iteratura. Casa de
editura .enus. $asi. 677F.
9. 3ogle5 Richard Harter. (a&thorne)s *iction. The Light and The !ark. Norman:
)ni2ersity of ,?lahoma -ress5 8:JF.
;. Hawthorne5 Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. An Authoritative Text. Backgrounds and
Sources. Criticis. Eds. &radley5 Sculley5 Richmond Croom &eatty5 E. Hudson
#ong5 and Seymour 4ross. ' Norton Critical Edition. 6
ed. New Bor?: H.H.
Norton I Com0any5 8:J<.
Hawthorne5 Nathaniel. ,0.cit.5 0. 9:.
F. #ancaster5 %ichael. Britain in %ie&. Colour and the Landsca'e. #ondon: Kuiller
-ress5 8:<;.
L. The (ol" Bi$le. #ondon: *iamond &oo?s5 8::;.