Symbols In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the two main symbols, Hester and the scarlet “A”, change profoundly. As a recurring symbol, the “A” first represents the reality of sin, and more specifically, Hester’s sinful act of adultery. Despite this, the letter eventually transforms into other ideas, such as power, courage, and adept, contrasting against the first meaning of the scarlet “A”. The letter also relates to Hester’s daughter, Pearl, various times throughout the novel. Hawthorne first introduces the letter in the second chapter, describing it as, “so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her [Hester’s] bosom,” (Hawthorne 52). From this, the reader understands that Hester wore the representation of…show more content…
Hester stands on the scaffold as punishment for her sins, yet she does it with courage and bravery. “The unhappy culprit sustained herself as best a woman might, under the heavy weight of a thousand unrelenting eyes, all fastened upon her and concentrated at her bosom,” (Hawthorne 55). Although Hester realizes the harsh reality of her actions, she still stands tall and accepts her punishment without a second thought. The father of Pearl, however, much too cowardly, refuses to admit his sins. Hester also agrees to keep his sin a secret, despite all of the pressure put on her to reveal Pearl’s father. (Hawthorne 106). After years of the scarlet “A” symbolizing evil sin, the public changes their opinion on what it truly means. The letter may have originally represented sin; however, a few years later, people refuse to see this. Not only does society see her as powerful, courageous, but also as adept, or able. “The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness found in her-so much power to do and power to sympathize-that many people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original signification. They said it meant “Able”; so strong was Hester Prynne,” (Hawthorne
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