Shame Symbolism In Scarlet Letter

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Why would Hester stay in Boston rather than start her life anew somewhere else? The narrator argues that it is very difficult to leave the scene of a grave event because one feels the need to indulge in the feelings brought about by the setting. In other words, once Hester is made to stand on the scaffold, she unconsciously believes she must remain in Boston until she is somehow purged of the consequences of her action. To leave Boston out of anger or the desire to banish her past could leave her unsettled for the rest of her life.

The scarlet letter itself becomes an even weightier symbol in these chapters. Whereas at first it represented Hester's adultery and her needlework skills, it now takes on two more meanings. First, the letter begins
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Thus the letter serves as a gateway into other people's secret crimes, and it acts as a focal point for the shame of the entire community. The letter thus can be interpreted as a symbol of shame shared by everyone rather than by Hester alone.

The treatment of Hester worsens after she is displayed on the scaffolding. Her friends abandon her, and she must live in an isolated cottage on the outskirts of town. Even though Hester spends time helping to make clothes for the poor, they treat her badly in spite of her good intentions. She is not just an outcast, but also so low in the opinions of others that even children feel encouraged to make fun of her, even though they have not the faintest clue what she has done wrong (probably they are too young to understand).

That Hester chooses to live near the woods, on the border between forest and the town, is a clear and potent metaphor for her place in limbo between the spheres of the moral and immoral. Indeed, Hester seems to be trying to live in both worlds simultaneously, which results in her further degradation and the increasingly clear fact that she will have to make a choice. Either she must assimilate to Puritan tradition and follow their laws to the letter, or she can roam free and follow her passions and instincts while losing her connection to society. Her society barely tolerates someone living in the moral world while having
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