Discuss the relationship between the scarlet letter and Hester’s identity. Why does she repeatedly refuse to stop wearing the letter? What is the difference between the identity she creates for herself and the identity society assigns to her?
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Hester, a knitter by trade, sees the letter as a burden laid on by society, an act of community-enforced guilt that she is forced to bear, even though it seems to make little difference for her private thoughts. The letter gives Hester a sense of identity that, like her affair with Dimmesdale, exists outside the control of Puritan hypocrisy. Ironically Hester adopts the symbol and makes it her own. Eventually even the town comes to see the symbol in a different light. They begin to see it as "able", the sense of identity that Hester has created from the original meaning of the symbol.