“O, a story about the Black Man, how he haunts the forest” (Hawthorne 175). A collaboration between three major symbols can be seen as Pearl, the daughter of the main character, asks her mother HesterPrynne to tell her a story about the Black Man in the forest. Pearl is a changing symbol who started as, and remains, a constant reminder of the adulterous sin Hester committed . Hester wears the letter “A” pinned to her dress as a constant reminder of the sin she has commit which wears away at her heart.
The Black Man symbolizes the devil and the evil that is present on Earth. In this quote Pearl who was a product of Hester’s sin asks her mother to tell her a story about the Black Man. In this situation Hester is once more reminded of what awaits her for sinning as the consequence of her sin asks her to tell a story. The story’s three major symbols include Pearl, the scarlet letter, and the Black Man which differ in meaning between the narrator and Puritan culture. The first symbol discussed in the story is the Scarlet Letter”A”.
The “A” is a punishment used in Puritan society that marks Hester as an adulterer and thus is deemed an outcast from Puritan society. The scarlet letter is probably the most complex of all the symbols due to its ever changing nature, as well as the fact that it has different meanings to several different individuals. For instance, to Hester’s daughter Pearl the scarlet letter is pretty and helps her identify her mother. To Roger Chillingworth it is a symbol of how he has been wronged by Reverend Delay 1 OB Dimmesdale, and serves as a driving force for his revenge.
When Chillingworth discovers Dimmesdale is the father he begins to plot his revenge. “This diabolical agent had divine permission, for a season, to burrow into the clergyman’s intimacy and plot against his soul” (Hawthorne 120). In Dimmesdale’s eyes the letter is a constant reminder of his sin, hypocrisy and how he has wronged Hester. In chapter eleven his guilt has built up so much he tries to confess during a sermon. “He told his hearers he was altogether vile, a viler companion of the vilest… ” (Hawthorne 135).
To Hester the scarlet “A” is an emblem which she is to wear upon her chest at all times; it brings her constant internal battles as she struggles with feelings of shame and loneliness. The “A” allows Hester understand the evil in her sin and also helps her to also see the sins of others. This ability allows Hester to avoid self deprecation and helps guide her to be a beacon of hope and positivity in the world. The symbol of the scarlet letter helps the audience understand how strict Puritan society was. The second symbol Hawthorne introduces is Pearl, the illegitimate daughter of Hester and Dimmesdale.
Symbolically Pearl is the “A”. She is created through the same action that Hester was deemed worthy of the scarlet letter. Hester is unsure how to raise Pearl, as she is brought up in a home of anger and despair Pearl is unable to understand any other emotions. Pearl, in this sense, reflects her mother’s confusion and sadness as she struggles to see the true meaning in the “A”. In the story Pearl foreshadows the event of Dimmesdale’s appearance on the scaffold with her and her mother when she asks if Dimmesdale will be joining them on the scaffold the following day.
At the end of the story in chapter 23 Dimmesdale gets on the Scaffolding with Pearl and Hester and admits that he is Pearl’s father. In chapter 12 Pearl asks Dimmesdale “Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, tomorrow at noonday? ” (Hawthorne Delay 2 OBJ144). Pearl helps the reader understand how Hester lives and the things she will do for her child despite her being seen as an illegitimate devil child by the community. Hester spends all of her money on material to make beautiful clothes for her, which helps the reader to see the good that is truly in Hester’s heart.
Pearl gives the reader an idea of what it is like for the single mother Hester to raise a child and prevent the torture of her father. One more symbol which isn’t revealed until midway through the book is the Black Man. The Black Man represents the devil and the evils on Earth; essentially he embodies all that is wrong in Puritan society. In one particular instance Pearl asks Hester if she has ever met the Black man and she replies that the scarlet letter is the mark that she met him. “Once in my life met the Black Man … This letter is his mark. ” (Hawthorn 176).
The black man being the devil, Hester allowed into her life as she commit adultery and for this she is doomed by the “A”. The recurring thought of Black Man helps guide Hester to repent for her sin. The more Pearl asks about him the more Hester regrets what she has done, thus the scarlet letter serves its purpose. The idea of the Black Man helps push the idea that Pearl may very well be a devil child. She is often very eager to talk about him and meet him. This idea also helps the reader see Hester’s mix of love and fear of Pearl and the strange mother daughter relationship they have.
This symbol also allows the reader to see how Hester is sorry for what she has done, but that she still loves her child very much. Throughout the story these three symbols are projected to the reader by Hawthorne as they follow Hester in her quest for acceptance and renewal. Each symbol plays a powerful role within the story allowing the reader to see the situation from not only Hester’s religious side but also her. The symbol of the Black man focuses on the Puritan lifestyle that Hester is a part of Delay 3 and is surrounded by in 17th century Massachusetts.
Pearl allows the reader to see how Hester struggles physically in her ability to raise a child alone while being an adulteress. Pearl also reminds Hester of her sin constantly, despite this Hester still loves her. Lastly the scarlet letter is the symbol of Hester’s sin. Throughout The Scarlet Letterthe reader is able to see how Hester struggles with her shame, exile, persecution, and anger as she struggles to raise a wild child. These symbols leads the reader to be wary of their actions because they will be confronted, whether it be on in this life or another