Describe the scarlet letter Hester makes.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a Puritan Hester should make a letter that is plain and simple.  Anything other is a show of vanity; however, in rebellious pride, Hester fashioned an A that is very ornate; the "goodwives" remark on the audacity of the young woman who "mades a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant for a punishment." 

In fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread... It was illuminated upon her bosom.  It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relation with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.

In his introductory chapter, "The Custom-House," Hawthorne describes having found the letter on the floor upstairs.  He writes that the letter had been formed with

wonderful skill and a stitch [that] gives evidence of a now forgotten art, not to be recovered even by the process of picking out the threads.

Thus, the letter becomes more than just a letter or badge.  It identifies Hester and it is an identification that she will not shed.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Chapter Two, the scarlet letter was beautiful. It was made of "fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread." It was also "artistically done" so that it matched the rest of Hester's clothing. However, it was not gaudy for the time period in which it was made but it certainly went "greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony". In other words, most Puritans thought it was too embellished, especially considering the crime for which it stood.

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The Scarlet Letter

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