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The Scarlet Letter - Symbol of the Letter "A"

            Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne embeds a variety of signs and symbols in the letter "A." The letter "A" has many positive and negative effects on Hester Prynne, the wearer of the scarlet letter. Pearl, symbolized as the scarlet letter, has her various effects on Hester also. First, we must understand where Nathaniel Hawthorne got his idea of the letter "A" and his usage of signs and symbols within his novel. .
             Although there were not any reports on specific individuals convicted of adultery in Puritan history, a 1694 law in Salem stated that women convicted of adultery were required to wear a capital 'A' on their clothing. The first case of a woman branded with an 'A' appeared in Maine in 1651. Since Hawthorne had a personal interest in Maine, he could have come across this piece of information and incorporated it in his book, The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne 332). .
             It is "a general impulse to seek coherence- a syntax- in life, but it is the artist above all who does so most heroically, who is the champion of our general endeavor" (Hawthorne 452). Usage of signs is important to Hawthorne because it allows him to show the values and ideals of Puritan society in his work. In The Scarlet Letter, the audience is "asked to consider things as symbolic; objects, persons and events are called signs rather than being silently presented as such" (Hawthorne 543). An example of sign is one of the Romantic elements of light versus dark. "It would have been impossible to guess that this bright or sunny apparition owed its existence to the shape of gloomy gray or that a fancy" (Hawthorne 145). In this quote, Pearl is described as having a bright personality in contrast with her gray surroundings. The contrast that Hawthorne presents helps to emphasize the character of Pearl and makes her more distinct. The children of the other society kept Pearl isolated by refusing to play with her.

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