Red symbolizes the glow of Hester's passion. Black represents the devil and sin. Chillingworth, for instance, refers to their shared fate as a "black flower." The inscription on the tombstone Hester and Dimmesdale share says "On a field, sable, the letter A, gules," which means "On a black background, the scarlet letter burns."
Red and Black Quotes in The Scarlet Letter
The The Scarlet Letter quotes below all refer to the symbol of Red and Black. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Scarlet Letter published in 2015.).
Chapter 2 Quotes
On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it ... was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.
Chapter 4 Quotes
As he spoke, he laid his long forefinger on the scarlet letter, which forwith seemed to scortch into Hester’s breast, as if it had been red-hot. He noticed her involuntary gesture, and smiled. “Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, in the eyes of men and women—in the eyes of him thou didst call thy husband—in the eyes of yonder child! And, that thou mayst live, take off this draught.”
Chapter 8 Quotes
“Wilt thou go with us tonight? There will be a merry company in the forest; and I well-nigh promised the Black Man that comely Hester Prynne should make one.”
Red and Black Symbol Timeline in The Scarlet Letter
The timeline below shows where the symbol Red and Black appears in The Scarlet Letter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...Dimmesdale delivers his most powerful sermon ever. Afterward, the church sexton returns to Dimmesdale a black glove he found on the scaffold, saying Satan must have left it there. He mentions... (full context)
Hester says she must tell Dimmesdale about Chillingworth. He responds that their fate, a "black flower," is no longer in anyone's hands. He apologizes to Hester for not having offered... (full context)