The Symbolism Of 'A' In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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According to Andre Carson, a U.S. Representative, “People are always judging you based on where you 're from, where you went to school, how you look, how you talk. But at the end of the day, you 're going to have to look into the mirror and accept who you are. It 's all about being authentic” (Brainyquote). The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, takes place in Puritan times, where most people had strong opinions about religion and what was considered acceptable in society. Throughout the story, Hawthorne uses the symbol “A” to depict the suffering and stern Puritan beliefs of the characters. The “A” plays an extremely important role in Hester’s life. The book begins with the bestowing of the scarlet letter to Hester, which…show more content…
Receiving the scarlet letter changed every aspect of Hester’s life. Especially at the start of the story, the letter symbolized the solitude and great suffering Hester faced just because of a letter placed on her bosom. The “A” also depicted how no one viewed Hester the same way as before her peccant actions. “…she saw that, owing to the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance” (Hawthorne 109). The pejorative community Hester lived in never saw Hester as the beautiful, young woman she was, but now, as a horrible fiend. This dramatic change in views was brought solely by how the “A” represented adultery, which was extremely frowned upon at the time. Perhaps the most degrading scene involving the…show more content…
Furthermore, the “A” also symbolized many things in the community of Boston during Puritan times. The way the people treated Hester because of her sin revealed the strong beliefs of the community. It exposed how the community wanted sinless people and would not accept anyone who had sinned; even though everyone, including their reverend, was a sinner. However, the “A” did not always represent adultery as in did in Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s life. When the governor passed away, the community saw the same meteor as Dimmesdale but brought a much different meaning from it. ‘“But did your reverence hear of the portent that was seen last night? —a great red letter in the sky.—the letter A, which we interpret to stand for Angel. For as our good Governor Winthrop was made an angel this past night’” (Hawthorne 164). While the community usually had the “A” be a symbol of horrid things, they did change their meaning over time. In the beginning of the story, the community viewed the “A” solely as standing for adultery and Hester’s sin (Hawthorne 56). With Hester changing her ways and helping the poor, the community changed, “They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 168). While the community originally viewed the “A” as a symbol of sin, they began to see it too as a symbol of being “Able” because all that Hester Prynne had overcome. The Scarlet Letter had many examples of symbolism, but none were more significant that the letter “A”
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