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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Because the scarlet letter is a symbol, it acquires different meanings for various people, and its denotation changes at different times. It is initially a mark of ignominy and sin, the symbol of an adulteress, and it causes its wearer great shame. When Hester Prynne first appears on the scaffold, she wears the scarlet letter of adultery that she has sewn herself with a certain defiance. 

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 all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore...but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony. (Ch.2)

This letter represents Pearl , the incarnation of her sin; it also denotes Hester's artistry, and it suggests her rebellion against the stringency of the Puritan community. Little Pearl loves...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 676 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team