Scarlet Letter8 Essay

This essay has a total of 1137 words and 5 pages.


Scarlet Letter8





In the novel The Scarlet Letter, the scarlet letter “A” has several meanings throughout
the novel. For each character the scarlet letter stands for something different. Each of
the main characters interprets the letter in different forms. The townspeople observe the
letter as a form of shame and embarrassment. For Hester the letter takes on several
different forms. Arthur Dimmesdale, the Reverend, sees the letter on Hester’s breast as a
constant torture of his sin and secrete. He goes through terrible ordeals throughout the
novel. For Roger Chillingworth (Hester’s husband), the letter stands for power.

The Townspeople see the scarlet letter “A” as a form of embarrassment for Hester and a way
of keeping order and peace within the colony. The story begins with Hester having to go
on the scaffold and stand there for three hours with her two shameful sins, the letter A
(which stands for Adulteress) and her illegitimate child. The magistrates feel as though
constant public embarrassment will disclose the secret of the child’s father. On the
scaffold Hester experiences harsh words. A group of women are having a discussion in the
crowd and one-woman states, “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot
iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead. She may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish
adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever” (1332). This statement shows that it
was not enough that the townspeople knew she committed a sin, but they wanted to see the
sin on her chest constantly. This letter somehow gave them power over Hester and made
them feel more superior. Without them seeing the letter they felt that her sin was not
being seen. Even after Hester moves away from the town, into the forest, children go
there to get a glimpse of her; this continues the embarrassment for Hester. Also, the
ministers of the town use Hester’s sin in their sermons. Another way in which the town
punishes Hester and tries to have some type of power over her is when they try to take her
child. As the novel progresses and Hester becomes a helpful person in the community,
people begin to accept her in society again but the scarlet letter is never overseen.

The Scarlet letter means something entirely different to Hester. At first the letter
means the same for Hester as it does for the townspeople, shame. However, as the novel
progresses, the letter changes in significance. The letter on Hester’s breast begins to
break her down. She loses her femininity due to the letter. The letter is a constant
reminder of what she has done. One women states in the beginning of the novel, “let her
cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart” (1333). This
explains that no matter what Hester does the pain that she will endure will always be with
her. As the illegitimate child Pearl gets older, Hester becomes worried because the child
has a funny way about her. Hester explains how Pearl has a “fiend” way about her. She
believes this is because of how Pearl was conceived, through the Scarlet letter. Although
Pearl is her great gift, she is also a reminder of her sin, the adultery. Pearl is also a
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