Scarlet Letter

In: English and Literature

Submitted By aed1994
Words 395
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Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter
Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter is a hardworking symbol, it represents: adultery, sin, hard work, skill, charity, righteousness, sacredness, and, of course, grace.
At first, there is no doubt that it symbolizes the sin of adultery, and Hester wears it as punishment. From the very beginning, she is not willing to let it dictate the terms of her punishment.
“On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter 'A.' It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony” (Cain 630).
By embroidering the "A" so finely, Hester takes control of her own punishment. She acknowledges her punishment and owns up to it. The letter showcases her talent and artistry, skills that allow her to make a living as a single parent in Puritan Boston. These qualities of strength and independence set her apart, as does her love of beauty, since we meet the Puritans as a crowd of "bearded men, in sad-colored garments and grey steeple-crowned hats” (Cain 626).
As Hester Prynne builds a new life, her hard work and charity end up altering the letter's meaning. Some people even "refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification" (Cain 707), which appears to mean that they forget, or choose to forget, that it's a symbol of her sin. Instead, they say that the "A" stands for "Able"—as in, Hester is such an able woman.
Eventually, the letter even achieves a kind of holiness. It has "the effect of the cross on a nun's bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness, which enabled…...

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