The Scarlet Letter: the Symbol of the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Badge of shame Pages: 4 (1384 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Scarlet Letter: The Symbol of the Scarlet Letter

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne's scarlet token liberates her more than it punishes her. First of all, Hester's soul is freed by her admission of her crime; by enduring her earthly punishment, Hester is assured of a place in the heavens. Also, though her appearance is much hampered by the scarlet letter, her mind is freed by it, that an intellectual passion rises from her isolation and suffering. Finally, it defines her identity, for the letter makes Hester the woman that she is; it gives her roots, character, and a uniqueness to her being that sets her apart from the other Puritans. The scarlet letter is indeed a blessing to Hester Prynne, more than the curse she believes it to be.

The scarlet symbol of ignominy may have defiled Hester's public image, yet it has been a benefit rather than a bane to her soul, for by admitting her crime to the crowd, her soul is freed from two hells: first, the fiery pit where she would otherwise go after death, and second, the own personal hell Hester will create for herself if she had chosen to hide her sin in her heart. Though it was ordered for Hester to wear the letter, it was still her own choice to make it in a vivid scarlet, "so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom." Hester chose red as the color of her brand of shame, to declare to the rest of the townspeople that she is prepared to acknowledge her sin, instead of denying it; she could have chosen to wear her "A" in a plain and nondistinct color, to escape the townspeople's disdain. By displaying her guilt however, she is granted the opportunity to face her punishment bravely, thus through her public humiliation, she achieves freedom from the personal guilt of not suffering enough for her crimes. Furthermore, "the scarlet letter, forthwith seemed to scorch into Hester's breast, as if it had been red-hot." The scarlet A's glowing embers, scorching they...
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