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Symbolism: S For Superman And A For Adultery In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter"

935 words - 4 pages

Talented writers often use extensive symbolism in there writing to portray intricate thoughts, ideas, and concepts. For example, in the popular 1978 movie Superman the “S” on Superman’s costume stands for super. Along the same lines, the “A” in Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is also a symbol. However, in contrast to the one dimensional meaning of the “S” in Superman, the “A” in The Scarlet Letter has a multifaceted meaning. As the literature unfolds the meaning of the crimson letter shining on Hester Prynne’s bosom subtlety changes from meaning adulterer, to able and finally the “A” becomes a symbol for angel.
It is impossible to understand how the meaning of the scarlet letter transforms as the novel progress without first understanding its literal meaning and how it affects Hester. At the beginning of the novel Hester is depicted to be standing on the scaffold with the scarlet letter as bright as ever glinting on her chest. In the Puritan faith adultery was considered to be the most ignominious offence and the punishment was public humiliation and the burden of the scarlet letter, and its ubiquitous wrath haunting your every move. The disheartening insults that Hester was bombarded with at every corner inevitably made her stronger, “Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, —stern and wild ones, —they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss (Hawthorn 209). Through the powers of time this strength was what forged new meanings for the scarlet letter.
At the beginning of the novel Hawthorne made it very clear that the scarlet letter stood for adulterer. After Hester’s public humiliation on the town’s scaffold she isolated herself in a cottage and made stunning sewed works. In part, she isolated herself in order to escape constant abuse from the community. At this point in Hawthorne’s ever developing plot Hester was weak in the sense that she was being held back by the shining remembrance of her sin embroidered on her bosom. When school children saw Hester and Pearl (the product of Hester’s sin) walking down the street they happily responded by saying “Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them” (Hawthorne 105)! Other similar events contribute to Hester’s strength and as time passes and Pearl grows, Hester’s willingness and her ability to help grows stronger with every passing day, until the citizens of the town come to think of Hester as an ideal citizen.
At this point in Nathanial Hawthorne’s intricate and powerful plot Hester’s scarlet letter morphs into something that not only Hester can be proud of but the whole community is grateful for. By this point in the novel Hester has dedicated herself to helping the community, caring for the sick and bettering herself as a...

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