The Scarlet Letter “A””On a field, sable, the letter A gules.” The novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a book where the whole plot revolves around one object, the scarlet letter “A.” The letter “A” is a symbol throughout the novel, as it represents sin. But the “A” represents more than the sin of adultery, it represents the sin in all characters of the book. For the main character, Hester Prynne, the “A” does not only symbolize her sin of adultery, but it also symbolizes her difference among the society of the Puritan Boston area. For her daughter, Pearl, she acts as the living “A,” and it symbolizes her existence and the meaning behind it. And lastly her lover (the man she commits the sin with), Dimmesdale, the “A” is a constant reminder of his hidden sin which causes great remorse for him. All in all, the scarlet letter “A” represents the different sins in the characters, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl throughout the story.
The scarlet letter “A represents the sin in all the characters, but for Hester the “A” is not only a symbol of adultery, but also a symbol of difference among society. The obvious proof for the “A” as a symbol of adultery, is that she received it as punishment for the crime she commits which was adultery. Hester wears the “A” at her bosom, and is haunted by it for years to come. The “A” gives Hester much stress, and as a result she changes her appearance. The beautiful woman that Hester Prynne once was, is ripped away from her after she receives the scarlet letter. The narrator says, “Some attribute had departed from her, the permanence of which had been essential to keep her a woman.” He later on says that attribute was her femininity. The sin in the “A” crushes her reasons to live. The “A” affecting her appearance in society doesn’t help her either. She becomes ridiculed and hated by the Puritan people of New England. One peasant of the town says, “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.” This shows how the people of the town feel of her. They believe that she got away easy, and that she is a true and absolute sinner. And then another peasant, a young wife, says, “… the pang of it The “A” will always be in her heart.” This woman believes the “A” is more of a symbolic thing, that instead of just executing Hester, the “A” will serve as an internal torture, constantly reminding her of her sin. These quote prove that the “A” is not only a symbol of the sin of adultery, but also a symbol of difference among society.
The “A” on Hester symbolizes the act of adultery, but Pearl, her daughter, act as the living “A”, and the “A” symbolizes her existence and the meaning behind it. In the story, Pearl is described as a beautiful child, and extremely intelligent, but she also has peculiar mood swings. Because of this behavior, the townspeople often refer to her as the “demon offspring.” She is in the story constantly reminding her mother of the sin she committed, therefore acting as the living “A.” One obvious proof, is when Hester, “took the baby on an arm,” and revealed the Scarlet Letter. Hester realized that Pearl was just like the “A,” since they both imply the sin the Hester committed. One symbol of shame would be not needed to hide with another. Another point, is when Pearl tried to mimic her mother. She played near a pool of water, assuming the aspect of a mermaid and, “As the last touch to her mermaid’s garb, Pearl took some eel-grass, and imitated … the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother’s. A letter,–the letter A,–but freshly green instead of Scarlet!” In this act, Pearl once again proposes her active role in Hester’s punishment. These quotes give proof that Pearl is the living “A,” and how it symbolizes her existence and the meaning behind it.
In Hester and Pearl, the “A” represents a sin that is open to the townspeople, but for Dimmesdale, the “A” is a constant reminder of his hidden sin, and causes extreme guilt within himself. Arthur Dimmesdale is the one who commits adultery with Hester Prynne. Although both of their sins are the same, Dimmesdale’s is worse because his (even though being a reverend and believing in confessing sins) is a hidden sin. By not confessing his sin, he becomes overcame with guilt. The guilt almost drove him to insanity. The narrator says, “His inward trouble drove him to the practices more in the accordance with the old, … than with the better light of the church in which he had been born and bred.” He becomes overcome with guilt and begins beating himself with a scourge, laughing at his own stupidity while in the process. The hidden sin attacks him in ways like this. Another instance is when he appears on the scaffold and he, “shrieked aloud.” The guilt inside him becomes unbearable, and he does this to let go some of his anguish towards his own absurdity. The guilt shows its affects when he sees Hester suffering for the same sin that he committed himself. Hester notices, “His nerve seemed absolutely destroyed.” The guilt takes its toll on the Reverend, and leads on to kill him, only after he tells the town the hidden sin. This shows how the “A” as a constant reminder of hidden sin, brings exceptional guilt to Dimmesdale.
The Scarlet Letter revolves around the theme of sin. Who had the greater sin? Was it Hester for adulterating? Was it Dimmesdale for adulterating while being a Reverend? Hester came forth with her sin and should have been forgiven. Dimmesdale’s sin should have been more harshly punished than Hesters since he never came out with his sin and kept it hidden. Dimmesdale’s and Chillingworth’s punishment is an example of punishment from God: death. People didnt kill them but God took their lives. Overall, the scarlet letter “A,” in The Scarlet Letter, symbolizes sin throughout the story.