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Scarlet letter

Posted by Brian from Shawnee on May 20, 2004

In Reply to: Scarlet letter posted by ESC on May 20, 2004

: : can anyone tell me the origin and meaning of the scarlet letter "A" ? I have heard many referenceses to it, the band jethro tull has an album with this title, it seems to be a reference to public disobediance and revolt. help?

: It is a reference to a classic -- "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's a good story. I was going to refer you to Spark Notes, a really good site online with summaries, etc., of literature. That site is down temporarily so here's some information from another site:

: "The Narrator tells us that he found some documents telling the story of a Scarlet Letter used by a woman named Hester Prynne from Boston, Massachusetts in the early seventeenth century. He goes on to write an embellished version of the story.

: The story begins with Hester Prynne, who has just given birth to an illegitimate daughter, leaving the prison to serve her sentence of standing in the town scaffolds for an hour with her three-month-old baby. She has also been required to wear a red letter 'A,' to stand for Adulteress, on her chest. Hester has embroidered the A with beautiful gold thread and amazing artistry..."


: One site said this was actually a practice at one time -- the scarlet A, I mean.

In high school I was told they also used other letters such as H for Heresy and I for Incest. I wasn't able to find evidence of that during a brief Google search, but I found a site that indicates the letters B for Burglar and T for Thief were used. I've always wondered if each letter also had its own color.