What is the relationship between the scarlet letter and Hester's identity?

Quick answer:

Hester's identity is inextricably tied to the scarlet letter.

Expert Answers

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The relationship between the Scarlet Letter and Hester's identity is one of great complexity.  The Scarlet Letter is meant to be a symbol of shame to Hester; however, it becomes a powerful symbol of identity for her. Upon Hester’s release, though not physically imprisoned, she is not allowed to remove the Scarlet Letter from her chest and resume a normal life. She accepts her punishment and serves her sentence with as much dignity and determination as she can muster, rather than allow others to determine it for her. Hester feels that removing the letter or running away would only admit that society controls her life and that the mark is something she desires to escape.  Instead of allowing this to happen, Hester reworks the Scarlet Letter into a noticeable symbol to represent her own experiences and character, the truth of what Hester has learned, the individuality and strength are gained by quiet self-assertion, meaning that her past sins are part of who she is.  Because her sins are a part of who she is, Hester integrates them into her life. 

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