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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter is a fictional novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel is considered one of the masterworks of Hawthorne. The novel is set in seventeenth century, narrating the story of Hester Prynne. The story observes the themes of sin, guilt, and repentance.

About the Author :

Nathaniel Hawthorne is an American novelist and short story writer belonging to Dark Romantic genre. Born in 1804 in Massachusetts, Nathaniel graduated at the Bowdoin College. Some of his collections include Twice-Told Tales, Fanshawe, and The Scarlet letter.

Summary :

The Scarlet Letter chronicles the life of Hester Prynne, a young woman, who is bound to the society’s punishment. Hester had an affair with one of the men in the town and conceives a child. When found guilty, she is move to the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl. After release, Hester and Pearl are banished by the community, and live in the outskirts of the town. As a penalty for her illegal affair, she is bound to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ denoting her crime of adultery.

Hester’s husband is a scholar, sends her to Boston but fails to arrive as he is believed to have lost at sea. Hester apparently has an affair while waiting for her husband, and gives birth to a girl child. However, she does not reveal her lover’s identity, despite her publish shaming. The scarlet letter is considered to be a symbol of sin and punishment. Even when she is harangued at the town scaffold, she denies identifying her daughter’s father – the man behind her sin.

Hester’s missing husband arrives as an onlooker among the crowd and disguises himself as a medicine practitioner, with the name Roger Chillingworth. He settles in the town to revenge the one who had affair with Hester. He sets out to find the adulterer. However, he reveals his identity to Hester in secrecy.

After several years, Pearl is grownup into willful child. Hester makes her living as a seamstress. The officials attempt to take away Pearl from Hester as a punishment. But Arthur Dimmesdale, who is a young eloquent minister, helps her. When Dimmesdale suffers from a heart trouble, Chillingworth is sent to the ailing minister. However, he discovers that he is suffering from some psychological distress. Chillingworth suspects Dimmesdale for the affair and discovers a mark on his breast.

When Dimmesdale’s psychological anguish deepens, he tries to suicide at the town scaffold. However, Pearl and Hester arrive there to save him. Hester requests Chillingworth to not reveal his identity to the people. However, he refuses to do so. Meanwhile, Hester’s humility and charitable deeds earns her a hiatus from the community’s contempt.

Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest secretly and plans to flee to Europe together with their daughter. They arrange for the sale in few days’ time. However, on the day before their sail, Dimmesdale makes an eloquent sermon speech to the crowd and confesses publicly about his affair with Hester and kisses Pearl. He exposes his scarlet letter mark on his chest to the town people and fall dead on the scaffold.

Chillingworth is frustrated of his revenge, and dies a year later. Sometime later, Hester and Pearl move to faraway city unknown to anyone. Years after, she arrives to Boston, with the scarlet letter, and lives in her old cottage as a seamstress. Pearl, who is married and living in Europe, sends letters to her mother. When Hester dies, she is placed next to Dimmesdale’s grave. Their tombstone bears a scarlet “A.”

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