Symbolism of the letter 'A' throughout "The Scarlet Letter"

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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...