In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, why does the meaning of the letter A change towards the end of the novel?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the last chapter of the novel, Hawthorne reveals many themes.  The narrator describes the way Hester and Pearl left the colony, as well as the fact that Hester returns many years later.  In other words, of Hester's own free will, she decides to come back to the place where her misery had been because it was also where her love had been.  As a result, the narrator says that "the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too."  Hester could have tried to escape her punishment many years ago, and she did not.  She could at least have stayed away once she did leave, after Dimmesdale's death.  However, her commitment to him, to this place, impresses everyone, and so the letter stops being a bad thing and comes to symbolize her commitment and love instead.  People begin to come to her in their times of need, and she becomes the community's favorite auntie: a wise woman who has been through a great deal and is thus qualified to help others through their trials.  She is selfless and kind, and this is always respectable.

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The Scarlet Letter

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