For this irrevocably harshsin, she must wear a symbol of shame for the rest of her life. “On thebreast of her gown, in a fine red cloth surrounded by an elaborate embroideryand fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter ‘A. ‘” Hester’sscarlet “A” serves as a public symbol of her private sin. BecauseHester is able to declare her guilt openly, she is freed from excessive remorse,and her sin serves to enrich and dignify rather than to destroy her.
The lettermakes her stronger and more an individual. As foreshadow as Hawthorne speaks ofthe scarlet letter, “. . It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of theordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself,”Hester indeed does isolate herself, and stays “.
. . . out of the sphere ofsocial activity. .
” and moves out to an isolated cottage. Hester decidesthat “Here. . . .
had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the sceneof her earthly punishment, the torture of her daily shame would at length purgeher soul and work out another purity than that which she had lost; moresaintlike, because of the result of matyrdom. Hester Prynne, therefore did notflee. ” This is where she sinned, this shall be where she suffers and givespenance. As expected, Hester is at first shunned and humiliated by thetownspeople, who ignore their own faults and project them onto Hester, and thenlater their children project them onto Pearl, who does not have the “divinematernity” of Hester, who can do no wrong. Hester behaves with decorum andgrace, helping others who are hungry, sick, or in need. Slowly the disdain ofthe townspeople turns to admiration, “.
. . Many people refused to interpetthe scarlet “A” by it’s orginial signification. They said it meant”Able”. . .
” and Hester becomes a respected person in a Puritansociety by overcoming one of the harshest punishments, the scarlet letter. Allin all, in the conclusion of the book, Hawthorne demondstrats to us that HesterPrynne and Arthur Dimmsdale, whom both commited the same sin, but dealt andlived with it in completly different ways, were ultimately both forgiven. Welearn that their graves were next to one another, but “. . with a spaceinbetween, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle. ” but,in the end “Yet one tombstone served for both.
” Finally, we are leftwith: “On a Field, Sable, The Letter A Gules. ” Arthur Dimmesdale ishis own worst enemy. He hates himself and must physically inflict pain uponhimself. “He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith hetortured, but could not purify, himself” to never forget what he has done. He lacks the courage to risk his important position in society by admitting hissin publicly, but is unable to achieve any inner calm while living with hishypocrisy.
To Dimmesdale, it is bad that Hester is shown publicly as a sinner,but people forget that. What is far worse than public shame is Dimmesdale’s owncruel inner shame. Publicly he becomes more and more passionate and effective inhis sermons and moral counsil to his congregation. Privately he is torn withself-hatred, and his body wastes away because of the remorse and knowing whatonly he and Hester know gnaws at his soul. He has not confessed, therefore heknows he can’t begin his true penance, thus never being forgiven.
He finally hasthe courage to do so at the hour of his death.