Often, besides portraying the dynamic changing character straightforward, authors will interweave a certain object that symbolizes the protagonist throughout the course of the story. A couple good examples of this can be shown using Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. While both have different symbols, they both portray the women protagonists in the story, its meanings changing over time. For The Scarlet Letter, the protagonist Hester Prynne’s symbol is the letter “A” sewn onto her dress while in A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer’s symbol is the Christmas tree her family gets for the holidays.
In the beginning of the book, each symbol means one thing, while at the end of the story it takes on a completely new meaning, almost the opposite. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne’s symbolic letter “A” retains a benevolent meaning by the end of the story, while at the beginning that was far from, somewhat opposite, of what it was supposed to mean.
Adulterer. Accused of committing adultery while waiting years for her husband to come home to her, a scarlet letter “A” is embroidered upon the chest of Hester.
In the beginning of the novel, in fact, the letter is depicted as an obnoxious “token of shame” that stands out on her bosom while she is standing upon the scaffold for the whole world to see her. And when she is holding her baby in front of her, evidence of her so called crime, it is said that “one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another”.
From the beginning of the novel, described as the “wearer of the scarlet letter” instead of her name Hester, the letter came to define her and made her lose all the other aspects of herself.
Throughout the course of the story, events constantly happen to remind her of the scarlet letter she shamefully seems to bear. In one instant at Governor Bellingham’s house when her daughter is looking at some armor, Hester notices that it is like a convex mirror and “the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature or her appearance. ” In another part of the story, Hester’s daughter Pearl starts “gathering handfuls of wild flowers, and flinging them, one by one, at her mother’s bosom; dancing up and down, like a little elf, whenever she hit the scarlet letter.
” Yet again, to Hester it is another moment constantly reminding her of what she did. The change all starts in Chapter thirteen, called Another View of Hester, the title alone foreshadowing a change in meaning of the symbol. The symbol not only becomes forgotten and disregarded; it becomes almost sacred and symbolizes someone of a higher status. Described with a positive connotation, “glittering in its fantastic embroidery”, the letter is now a familiar object to the townspeople. Hester became a shoulder to cry on; one to aid those in need, feed the poor, and cure the sick.
Able. In A Doll’s House, what Nora goes through is almost opposite of what happens to Hester. While Hester slowly increases her status in society, Nora Helmer deteriorates along with the Christmas tree throughout the course of the short play. This is clearly seen by examining minute descriptions, stage directions and clear physical depictions of both Nora and the Christmas tree. The tree is somewhat mentioned in every scene, nonchalantly in the background of where the action is taking place.
From the beginning of the play, when the porter is helping her bring the tree in, to throughout the play when she is slowly decorating the tree little by little, the tree is noticed one way or another. There is more than one parallel between Nora and the tree, symbolizing her not only psychologically, but physically as well. Psychologically, as stated earlier, Nora gradually becomes a disheveled mess, once anxiety fills her at the thought of her secret being revealed by Krogstad, which in turn would make Torvald extremely mad at her.
Supporting this, she is described as being “alone in the room, walking about uneasily. ” Similarly, this is at the point in the story, the beginning of Act II, when the Christmas tree is also described as a sorry mess. In a corner, it is “stripped of its ornaments” with “burnt-down candle-ends on its disheveled branches. ” Moving along to the similar physical representation of Nora and the tree, the discussion of decorations are essential. First off, Nora decorates the tree just as Torvald seems to “decorate” and dress her for the party.
Similarly, she disallows the children from seeing the tree before it looks pretty with all of its ornaments, just like she will not let anyone see her in her new dress until the night of the party. Apart from just the fact that Nora and the tree are both merely decorated, the actual ornaments can be looked at in a way to symbolize her lies she tells. As the tree loses its di? cor and beauty, that is how much closer the truth is getting to being revealed. On that tangent, in the beginning of the play in Act I, Torvald tells Nora, “Keep your little Christmas secrets to yourself, my darling.
They will all be revealed to-night when the Christmas tree is lit, no doubt. ” This is what could be the beginning of where the parallelism between Nora and the tree actually starts. Interestingly, although this is before the part where the reader actually knows about Nora’s lies and what Krogstad has on her, once looked back upon this part can be seen as a defining beginning to the symbolism. Although the symbols portrayed the main character in each novel, their meanings changed in different ways, one positively and the other negatively.
In The Scarlet Letter, the meaning symbolic letter “A” changed from adulterer to able, upbringing Hester’s position in society from one of shame to one people could look up to. On the other hand, in A Doll’s House, the physical state of the Christmas tree slowly worsens over the course of the play, representing the decline of Nora’s psychological state. While one woman had more luck than the other in the fact that her symbol changed for the better, the style of writing in terms of symbolism that both Hawthorne and Ibsen had were very similar.