In The Scarlet Letter, what does the color red symbolize?
The history of the symbolic meaning of red attaches it to a variety of things from the life-giving sun to blood spilled in war to anger. The common thread behind all the symbolic meanings for red is generally understood to be that of passionate and sensual urges. In Chapter 2 of The Scarlet Letter, we see that the symbolic meaning of red falls precisely into this commonality of meaning for it symbolizes the passion and sensuality between Hester and Dimmesdale, as well as symbolizing the life that arose from that passion in the person of Pearl. The letter "A" itself symbolizes Hester's crime of adultery. The red color of the "A" enhances the understanding of her crime by the addition of the symbolic representation of sensuality and passion, just as Pearl herself enhances the understanding of her crime by the addition of a life. Red also symbolizes the passion with which Hester and Pearl together work out their punishment.