Hester Pyrne, the main character of The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is found guilty of committing adultery with a man who will remain, for quite some time, anonymous to the people of Salem. As a punishment for her sin, Hester must wear the Scarlet Letter "A" on her bosom for the remainder of her life. Hawthorne also uses many literary elements in The Scarlet Letter, such as symbolism and irony. The Scarlet Letter, pearl, and sunshine are examples of symbolism. What is ironic about The Scarlet Letter is that Hester holds both the role as sinner and saint.
Hester Pyrne, after being found guilty of committing adultery, must wear the Scarlet Letter "A" on her bosom as a punishment for her sin. This letter "A" is initially meant to represent "Adultery" so that all people of Salem will know what Hester's sin was. However, as the novel progresses and Hester learns to deal with the embarrassment and rejection that comes with this marking, the meaning of the letter "A" seems to change to "Able" because Hester goes on to be a successful seamstress and helps out her community greatly. As a second punishment for her sin and the natural result of her love affair, Hester gives birth to her daughter, Pearl. Pearl's name is also an example of symbolism. Her name means she came of great cost; all Hester had. Pearl is the living image of the Scarlet Letter and, like the letter on Hester's bosom, causes her much pain and embarrassment by breaking nearly all moral codes of this Puritan community. Pearl's role was not to only further Hester's punishment for her sin, but she was also sent to give her father a name. Eventually, after pressuring her supposed father immensely, Reverend Dimmesdale climbed the scaffold with Hester and Pearl before all Salem to confess his sin. At this moment, Pearl's role is complete. A final example of symbolism in The Scarlet Letter is the behavior of the sunshine.