Symbols and Symbolism - The Letter A in The Scarlet Letter

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Symbolism of the Scarlet Letter

Authors sometimes use symbols in their novels to represent

different objects, people or ideas. One example is the S on Superman's

uniform, which symbolizes him being supper. In "The Scarlet Letter"

Nathaniel Hawthorne creates the symbolism of the letter "A" to have

different meanings. As the novel unfolds, the meanings of the letter "A"

on Hester Prynne's bosom changes, from adultery to able to angel.

In the beginning of the novel, Hawthorne describes the letter "A"

that lies on Hester's bosom as a symbol of adultery. Hester is made to

wear the letter "A" once the town's people see, that she committed adultery

by bearing a child by some other soul than her husband Roger Chillingworth.

Since she has worn this letter, she now has a label on her that she is

sinful. She is brought out in public to show everyone what is embroidered

on her chest. The narrator shares, "When the young women- the mother of

this child-stood fully revealed before the crowd...On the breast of her

gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and

fantastic flourshes of gold thread..."(50-1). Many people there to see her

when she reveals the "A" on her chest. Most of the town people are

astonished and startled on her beauty still shone. Even though the big red

letter on her chest stood for adultery.

As the novel progressed the meaning as the "A"" made a change for

the better in Hester's life. In chapters before of the novel the letter

"A" on Hester's bosom had negative meaning, but this time Hawthorne turns

the meaning around in the story to mean able. Now that she has given many

hours of time and service to the sick, poor and troubled she began to gain

respect from some of the town's people who once looked down on her. This

time the author shares, "Such helpfulness was found in her-so much power to

do and power to sympathize-that many people refused to interpret the

scarlet "A" by it's original signification. They said that it meant "

Able"...(158). Hester still held up her head and did not appear to be down.

She was trying to become herself again slowly. Once again the letter on
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