Christine read a beautiful alphabet book to my children the other morning. They were shown a portion of a picture and had to guess what animal would appear on the following page beginning with the letter shown.
The picture on the right is a link. “Look Inside” if you like.
The Scarlet Letter is like an alphabet book where Hester wears the first page on her chest, and as we turn the pages of our novel, the creature depicted by the A is ever shifting. Let’s flip through a few pages.
As we begin, Hester is holding a newborn Pearl on the pillary and we know that . . .
A is for Adultery.
Hester becomes the town’s aid, help, sympathizer and womanly strength. They began to say that . . .
A is for Able.
As Rev. Dimmesdale serves his own penance on the pillary he is passed by Rev. Wilson, joined by Hester and Pearl, and seen by Chillingworth, all on their way home from the deathbed of Governor Winthrop. A large zenith appears overhead, and those unaware of the family assembled under the cloak of darkness assume that it means that in his death, Gov. Winthrop has changed into a heavenly being, and that . . .
A is for Angel.
Hester reunites with her lover in the woods, her dedication to him remains after all these years. For her . . .
A is for Arthur.
Hawthorne’s overt references to the 17th century Boston theoloian could mean that . . .
A is for Ann Hutchinson.
Ann was the proponent of a belief that the Puritans were putting too much emphasis on works and therefore denying salvation by grace alone. She, and her followers held that believers were saved by the Holy Spirit’s power alone, regardless of works. This historical movement could mean that . . .
A is for Antinomian Controversy.
And sadly, although Hester freely repented of her sin, I don’t remember her ever mentioning reliance in her Savior’s forgiveness. Instead, she and Arthur both make reference to standing hand in hand before their Heavenly Father on Judgment Day with little hope. In the woods Hester even takes that job away from her Creator when she says to Dimmesdale, “Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!” Oh Hester, let God forgive. Please let the . . .
A be for Absolved.
What other things does A mean or what do you wish it could mean?