Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter includes many profound and important
symbols. This device of symbolism is portrayed well in the novel, especially through the
scarlet letter 'A'. The 'A' is the best example because of the changes in the meaning
throughout the novel. In the beginning of the novel, the scarlet letter 'A' is viewed as a
symbol of sin. The middle of the novel is a transition period, where the scarlet letter 'A'
is viewed differently.
In the commencement of the novel, the letter is taken as a label of punishment and
sin. Hester Prynne bears the label of the letter upon her chest. She stands as a label of an
outcast in front of society. She is wearing this symbol to burden her with punishment
throughout her life. She stands on a plank where her punishment is given, ''Thus she will
be a living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved upon her
tombstone''(59). Society places its blames upon this woman. It is because of this one
letter that Hester's life is changed. The letter's meaning in Puritan society banishes her
from her normal life. The Puritans view this letter as a symbol of the devil. The letter also
put Hester through torture:
'Of an impulse and passionate nature. She had fortified herself to
encounter the stings and venomous stabs of public contumely wreaking
itself in every variety of insult but there was a quality so much more terrible
in the solemn mood of popular mind, that she longed rather to behold all
those rigid countenances contorted with scornful merriment and herself the
This implies that Hester's sin of bearing a child without the presence of a husband will
always be remembered.
In the middle of the novel is a transition period where the letter...