Changing Views of the Letter A



The perception of Hester\'s A has changed throughout the novel. In the beginning, the scarlet letter
on her chest was a symbol of her sin. It was intended to be part of her punishment by providing her
with humiliation, much like on the scaffolding scene. In about the middle of the novel, the meaning
of the letter changes.
As mentioned earlier in the novel, Hester spends her spare time helping those less
fortunate than her. She was "a self-ordained sister of Mercy"(Hawthorne 148). The scarlet letter on
her chest was no longer a symbol of her sin but rather " a symbol of her calling" (Hawthorne 148).
The letter gave comfort to those who were sick, it had shined on those who were suffering, and the
breast that held the badge of shame "was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one"
(Hawthorne 148). The people considered it more appropriate for the A to stand for Able
(Hawthorne 148).
Even though the scarlet letter was originally intended for punishment, the people didn\'t see
it as that anymore. They grew to look at it as a token of all her good deeds, and not as a mark of
her sin. The scarlet letter was compared to a cross around the neck of a nun. It gave Hester an
aura of sacredness "which enabled her to walk securely amid all people" (Hawthorne 149).
The scarlet letter had a purpose for Hester. It\'s purpose was part of her punishment, but as
people changed their view of Hester and of the letter she felt " the scarlet letter had not done it\'s
office"(Hawthorne 152).



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