How does the meaning of the scarlet letter change throughout the book for Hester, the Villagers, and Pearl?

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cybil's profile pic

cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The scarlet letter is meant to be a mark of shame for Hester, for the "A" represents her adultery, and initially it ostracizes her from the community of Boston. Later because of her kind, thoughtful nature and willingness to tend the sick, the citizens begin to regard the "A" as "Able"; Hester, however, continues to feel cut off, enclosed in a "sphere of her own" created by the letter to the extent that she develops a "marble coldness" as her passion disappears. Pearl knows her mother only with the "A" on her dress; without it, it seems that Hester is not her mother. When Hester removes the letter in the forest after reconnecting with the minister, Pearl insists her mother put it back on; her attitude toward the letter does not change. Her mother complies and doesn't take it off again apparently until she leaves Boston. Hester resumes wearing the letter after she returns to Boston in the years following Dimmesdale's and Chillingworth's deaths. The "A" is no longer a stigma as Hester becomes the "angel" foreshadowed perhaps by the "A" seen in the sky on the night the governor died. Hester's goodness changes the townspeople's attitude toward the letter.

werd-nerd's profile pic

werd-nerd | eNotes Newbie

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The Scarlet Letter is an 1850 romantic work of fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and is considered to be his magnum opus. Set in 17th-century Puritan BostonMassachusetts during the years 1642 to 1649. 

So not only do you have the year wrong, but you have the location wrong.

loganj's profile pic

loganj | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

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I want to point out it takes place in BOSTON, not Salem. No idea what book prismschism was reading.

prismschism's profile pic

prismschism | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The other answer is good, but I just wanted to point out that The Scarlet Letter takes place in Salem, not Boston.

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