The Letter a as a Symbol in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: Hester Prynne, The Scarlet Letter, Shame Pages: 2 (763 words) Published: May 22, 2005
Throughout the novel The Scarlet Letter there are many symbols. One of the biggest symbols of the novel is the scarlet letter A that Hester Prynne is sentenced to wear after she commits adultery. It is a symbol that is sewn onto her clothes for everyone to see. It is a punishment that is meant to humiliate her for the duration of the time that she stays in Puritanical Boston. During the novel, the scarlet letter changes and evolves from meaning adultery to meaning ability and even physically changes its form.

In the beginning of the story, Hester is being punished for adultery, and is forced to wear the letter A on her bosom. It is shown so that people will know her as an adulteress. The letter A also gives Hester some supernatural abilities. When some women look at the letter A on Hester's chest, they make a face and look at her with disgust. Other women look at Hester and they seem to share something; "But sometimes...she felt a human eye--upon the ignominious brand, that seemed to give a momentary relief, as if half her agony were shared" (79). Hester knows that she is not the only one who committed adultery, and having the letter with her all the time seems to give her an intuitive power about it. As time goes on, people seem to forget that Hester had committed a sin and see her as a lovely and respectable person.

Next, the letter transforms so that it means Able or Angel. She is able to overcome her suffering and help the poorer people of the town. People are looking at Hester and they see her as a strong woman, and they respect her for that. "Individuals...had quite forgiven Hester Prynne...It is our Hester, the town's own Hester, who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick..." (149). Hester is protected from all evil that might be around her, and "had the effect of the cross on a nun's bosom" (149). The letter became a symbol of love and respect, and meant something good. Hester is able to deal with the townspeople, and they see her and have...
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