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Current Studies on the Symbolic Meanings of The Scarlet Letter
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Current Studies on the Symbolic Meanings of The Scarlet Letter

(By Vivian)

Symbolism is a means of artistic expression of literary creation and it uses concrete symbols to reflect abstract things and meanings. The true nature of symbolism is “something hiding and existing behind random or scattered phenomenon and it reflects the relationship among eternity, the universe and the process of the world.”(Yang Hengda, 1989: 7) It can invoke readers’ imagination. Hawthorne used symbolism as the main writing technique in his novel. Hawthorne is a romantic novelist. He was affected by mysticism so he paid great attention to the usage of symbolism. He illustrated his ideas when he adapted symbolism into his works. This kind of writing style was fully reflected in his novel The Scarlet Letter, the scarlet letter “A”, the names of the main characters and so on.

As an excellent masterpiece in American literature, The Scarlet Letter has attracted considerable people to study its meanings and get different interpretations from many aspects. His contemporary Edgar Allan Poe once said, “He is brimmed with innovation, creation, imagination and creative spirits”. His friend, Herman Melville indicated that the darkness in Hawthorne’s works made the dawn, which was keeping forging ahead in the dark, become brighter(Richard Waltona, 1998:36). Since the novel was published, it has enjoyed great reputation in the field of literature. I mostly agree with the studies about the symbolic significance of the main characters, the scarlet letter “A” and the characters’ names.

Symbolism is the main feature of The Scarlet Letter, thus the studies about it are numerous. For example, You Jie published his paper—Discussions on the Characters and the Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. Jun Yangli wrote The Symbolism and Hawthorne’s Literature Views (Jun Yangli, 2002:11). He made lots of discussions about the expression characteristics, functions and Hawthorne’s literature views. These two papers also point out various symbolic significance of “A”, the main characters as well as the descriptions of the surroundings. They think Hawthorne’s creation of this novel originated from puritan literature. Moreover, the use of symbolism makes The Scarlet Letter America’s first symbolism literature. In Tian Junwu’s Aesthetics of Recepetion and Ambiguity in Hawthorne’s Novel(Tian Junwu, 1999: 83), he put much emphasis on Hawthorne’s contradictory thoughts and its causes and analyzed the figures and the plots of the novel. Fang Cheng’s An Analysis of the Aritistic Conception in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter study The Scarlet Letter from Aesthetics and Hawthorne’s creative skills. Zeng Yanbo said in his paper, An Interpretation of the Leading Characters in The Scarlet Letter(Zeng Yanbo, 2003: 1), that Hawthorne revealed the dark side of human nature and the ugliness of their society and also praised the beauty of humanity, love and kindness.

From all the researches about The Scarlet Letter, people give their opinions from various aspects, such as the humanity of people, feminist, symbolism, culture, Puritanism, social background and something else. Having a research of this novel has great importance academic value and significance. It can help us to understand that period and it can enrich the historical meanings of this novel. At the same time, doing studies on it has improved the research level.

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