The Scarlet Letter

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In The Scarlet Letter, the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, uses many symbols throughout the novel. The most obvious and well known symbol, is the scarlet letter Hester is forced to wear. The infamous scarlet letter can be considered the most important and influential symbol. The symbolism behind the scarlet letter changes throughout this novel. Initially, the letter A was intended to mark Hester as an adulterer. During the first years of her punishment, the letter was a daily reminder of shame and her sin. Hawthorne writes, “. . .Hester Prynne had always this dreadful agony in feeling a human eye upon the token; the spot never grew callous; it seemed, on the contrary, to grow more sensitive with daily torture. (p.79)” However, the meaning of the scarlet letter begins to change as Hester alters its meaning to able through her hard work and charity. In chapter 13, Hawthorne writes, "They said that it meant 'Able' ; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength. (p.146)" Even the rulers and wise men began to acknowledge that the scarlet letter brought righteousness and holiness upon Hester. “In the eyes of the very men who spoke thus, the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun's bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness, which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril. (p.147)” The meaning of the scarlet letter changes as Hester changes and becomes a stronger woman. Throughout the book, there are various meanings of the scarlet letter not only pertaining to Hester. Its significance varies from person to person. Since birth, Pearl has always been fascinated by the scarlet letter that her mother wore. It brought curiosity upon Pearl. For Dimmesdale, the scarlet letter represents his immense guilt and suffering for the sin he has committed. He even goes to the point of branding himself with a letter A on his chest. All of Chillingworth's revenge and motivation to torture and kill Dimmesdale was because of the scarlet letter. The Native...
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