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Essay on Symbolism in Terms of Outward Appearance

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During one’s life, he or she will experience many symbols that must be deciphered and analyzed on some level. Take the Christian cross for example: the cross is viewed as a symbol of the Christian faith by being a reminder that Jesus died on it to pay for the sins of believers. However, if one looks deeper, there are many other representations of this symbol as well. Symbols are unique in that they are meant to be analyzed and made into whatever one wants to believe. Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes symbols of this nature throughout many of his works. Throughout Hawthorne’s works The Minister’s Black Veil, The Birthmark, and The Scarlet Letter, many different symbols are explored, including the ways in which the act of sin is portrayed through the characters' outward appearances.
Hawthorne published his short story The Birthmark in 1843, exploring the symbolism behind Georgiana’s birthmark. The time period in this work is referred to as he Concord Period; in this movement, scientific and artistic angles are explored (Easton 131). In the story, Aylmer is married to Georgiana, who would have been a prize wife to any other man. Hawthorne explains Georgiana’s birthmark in the beginning by saying, “To explain this conversation it must be mentioned that in the centre of Georgiana's left cheek there was a singular mark, deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face” (Hawthorne ) ; Aylmer views the birthmark as an imperfection. Many of the women also saw the birthmark as a disgrace, stating that “…the Bloody Hand, as they chose to call it, quite destroyed the effect of Georgiana’s beauty, and rendered her countenance hideous” (Hawthorne 632). Aylmer’s scientific mindset makes him believe that he can rid her o...


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...e for the world to know – however, the revelation of sin is inevitable




Works Cited

Easton, Alison. The Making of Hawthorne Subject. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

Eisinger, Chester E. "Pearl and the Puritan Heritage ." Scharnhorst, Gary. The Critical Response to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter. West Port: Greenwood Press, 1992. 158-166.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark." Ed. Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 631-643.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Minister's Black Veil." Ed. Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, Inc., 2008. 622-631.

Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlett Letter. Boston: TICKNOR, REED & FIELDS, 1850.

Stewart, Randall. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Biography . New Haven: Yale Universtity Press, 1948.




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