Scarlet Letter


What does Scarlet Letter mean?

Scarlet letter is a popular trope in literature, art and music, referring to the punishment of an adulterer in the novel of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Since the publication of the book, the phrase “Scarlet letter” has been used metaphorically to the stigma associated with being an adulterer, as well as a Cuckoldress.


What's the origin of Scarlet Letter?

Nathaniel Hawthorne published his novel “The Scarlet Letter” in 1850, telling the story of Hester Prynne in a puritan Massachusetts Bay colony during the 1600’s.

The book tells Hester’s story of having birthed a daughter to a man she was not married to and being exposed to the harsh stigma of being an adulterer.

The most notable part of the protagonist’s punishment is the fact that she must wear a scarlet letter “A” everywhere she goes, carrying its stigma with her.


Spread & Usage

How did Scarlet Letter spread?

Since the publication of Hawthorne’s novel, the expression “Scarlet Letter” has deeply engrained itself into popular thought.

In the short time following the publication of “The Scarlet Letter”, there was much discussion about the themes of the book, which did not cease in the 20th century.

The trope has been featured in countless products of culture since then, including such contemporary examples as the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”.

“Scarlet Letter” was first defined on Urban Dictionary on October 19th, 2005, with several other entries following in the subsequent years.

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