What does the scarlet letter mean?

The scarlet letter A originally means "adultery" when the townspeople force Hester Prynne to wear it. She has to wear it as a punishment for conceiving a child with a man who was not her husband.

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Hester Prynne, the protagonist of the novel, is married to Roger Chillingworth . In his absence, she becomes pregnant and refuses to confess the name of the father to the townspeople. This was highly scandalous in her Puritan community, and as a means of punishment, she is forced to...

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Hester Prynne, the protagonist of the novel, is married to Roger Chillingworth. In his absence, she becomes pregnant and refuses to confess the name of the father to the townspeople. This was highly scandalous in her Puritan community, and as a means of punishment, she is forced to wear a giant scarlet A on her chest every day.

The letter A is meant to cause Hester shame and force her into repentance for her perceived sins. The A stands for adultery because she has conceived a child outside the boundaries of her marriage. Yet instead of representing shame, the letter comes to represent much more to Hester.

Hester finds a way to care for her child even though they both are ostracized by most of the townspeople. As it turns out, she is a skilled seamstress, and soon the entire town turns to her skills when they need garments with especially beautiful needlework. It is ironic that Hester's skills in creating beautiful clothes are so sought-after, considering that these same townspeople force her to wear a letter meant to shame her with its ugliness.

Thus, the meaning of the letter A arguably transforms and comes to represent Hester's resilience. Though she has been forced to live apart from her society, Hester refuses to allow the judgment of others to define her sense of self-worth.

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