Authors sometimes will use a symbol, such as an object, person or idea, in their novels to represent different things. This is referred to as symbolism. One example is the S on Superman's uniform, which symbolizes him being "super." In "The Scarlet Letter," Hester Prynne is sent to America alone to wait for her husband to come back from Europe. While she is waiting she becomes pregnant with her minister. In the Puritan days the punishment for adultery was to wear a big, scarlet colored "A" on the chest. Nathaniel Hawthorne creates the symbol of the letter "A" to have meaning more than just adulterer. As the novel unfolds, the letter "A" on Hester Prynne's bosom changes many times. .
In the beginning of the novel, the letter "A" that Hester wears is meant to symbolize the true meaning of that time. It can be interpreted either as adultery, or adulterer when worn by someone such as Hester. Another part of the punishment is that she must stand on the scaffold in front of everyone. She is brought out, with her baby Pearl, to show everyone what she has done. Now that she wears this letter, she is labeled as a sinful person. The narrator shares, "When the young women- the mother of this child- stood fully revealed before the crowd.On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread.". (50) Some of the town's people are astonished and startled by her beauty, even though she is an adulterer. .
As the novel progressed, Hawthorne changes the meaning. When Dimmesdale is standing on the scaffold, Hester and pearl come walking by after leaving Governor Winthrop's deathbed. Dimmesdale asks them to stay with him for a while. While the three of them are standing on the scaffold together a bright read meteor appeared in the sky, leaving behind a great letter "A." At first, the three of them interpreted it as meaning adultery.