The trouble that one letter can cause to so many people can be described as nothing short of incredible. The power of the scarlet letter can change a life, a community, and be a harder punishment than people will ever understand. In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne gives the scarlet letter three significant meanings that are revealed through different scenes within the novel.
The Scarlet letter was pushed upon Hester Prynne by a theocratic society, for a sin that she had committed with a man whose name she would not reveal. The theocratic society placed Hester inside a jail with iron clamped doors. The jail was rusted, had iron spikes, and was decaying. The only sign of life this jail had was a wild red rose bush growing outside the door. When the prison door opened, she stood fully reveled to the town people and pulled the child closely to her chest and began to walk out. The narrator gives in detail the vision the people of Boston saw as they looked at Hester, “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter “A.” It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore” (51). The scarlet letter made Hester one of her own kind and separated her from the entire town. She was looked at as a sinner, being judged every time she walked into town, and was an example of sin. The scarlet letter made her different and the narrator explains, “It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself” (52).
Hester was now due for the punishment that extended farther than the letter “A”. She was to be placed on the scaffold where the city of Boston placed their eyes on Hester’s bosom to make her an example of sin. The narrator emphasizes Hester’s punishment upon the scaffold, “with the scarlet token of infamy on her breast; with the sin-born infant in her arms; with a whole people, drawn forth as to a festival, staring at the features that should have been seen only in the quite gleam of the fireside. . .” (61). This explains how the adulteresses are adding hypocrisy to the sin by not revealing the name of Pearl’s father. Hester, as humiliated as can be, still refuses to give the name of the father and will continue to wear the scarlet letter. The narrator implies, “. . . the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance” (102). This was Hester’s chance to remove the scarlet letter, but because of the sin and the consequences she chooses to wear the letter “A” that will take over her life.
Hester is not the only one being affected and tormented by the letter “A”. Arther Dimmesdale’s pain comes from within, leaving pain in his heart and an imprint on his chest. As one...