Many Symbols in the Scarlett Letter

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Roger Ebert said, “If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn't.” There are many “symbols” in The Scarlet Letter. The most known one was the letter itself. The meaning of the letter appears clear at first but as the book progresses you see the letter’s meaning shift with Hester’s character. The magistrates intended the letter to represent the sin of adultery. And while of course, people did shun her at the very beginning, the “shaming” technique could not weather the test of time. The “A” soon began to lose its shameful meaning and instead become a symbolic example of Hester’s courage and show that public shaming cannot compete with one’s own means of self torture. To begin, the scarlet letter had lost its meaning over the course of time. “Then, also, the blameless purity of her life during all these years in which she had been set apart to infamy was reckoned largely in her favor.” (Chapter XIII) The author’s purpose is to call attention to the Puritan’s weak shaming system. For example, if the person being subjected to the humiliation does not draw attention to them self, the villagers will lose interest in the crime; this allows the villagers a healing time. In Hester’s case the people were able to see her in a new light. “Such helpfulness was found in her-so much power to do and power to sympathize-that many people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original signification. They said that it meant “Able”; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s
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