Significance of The Letter A
The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a novel that takes place in a Puritan community during the middle of the seventeenth century. The story is concerning a woman named Hester Prynne who had an affair with a man by the name of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. This occurred after her husband inexplicably failed to join her in Boston after their emigration to America from England. Hester soon gives birth to a child, and is from then on condemned by her fellow townspeople. This condemnation consists of the town forcing her to wear the letter A upon her bosom. Throughout the book the letter A takes various shapes and forms for different people.
The first person for whom the letter “A” takes shape for is Hester Prynne. For Hester the “A” can represent adulteress, ashamed, artist, able, armor, alienation, apostle, and angel. Hester commits adultery with Reverend Dimmesdale, a man who is not her husband. Her sin comes to the publics attention when Hester becomes pregnant, a task not possible by her husband since he had been missing for two years. The term adulteress is placed down on her as a punishment for going against the puritan ways and having intercourse with a man other than her husband. The “A” is supposed to be used, as a form of punishment but Hester does not see it that way. The town places the A upon her bosom because it is meant to be a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a more powerful symbol of identity, to Hester. The letter’s meaning shifts as time passes.
They wanted her to be “ashamed” of what she had done. During the seventeenth century adultery was viewed as a high crime. In most cases a person who had committed such a sin would be put to death. Hester however was seen as too beautiful to be put to death so she was merely given town shame. When she was told to make the “A” for herself to represent adulteress, she showed off her artis...