The Scarlet Letter, novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850. It is considered a masterpiece of American literature and a classic moral study.
The novel is set in a 17th-century village in PuritanNew England. The main character is Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne a child out of wedlock. Hester believes herself a widow, but her husband, Roger Chillingworth, returns to New England very much alive and conceals his identity. He finds his wife forced to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress as punishment for her adultery. Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding the identity of his wife’s former lover. When he learns that the father of Hester’s child is Arthur Dimmesdale, a saintly young minister who is the leader of those exhorting her to name the child’s father, Chillingworth proceeds to torment the guilt-stricken young man.
In the end Chillingworth is morally degraded by his monomaniacal pursuit of revenge; Dimmesdale is broken by his own sense of guilt, and he publicly confesses his adultery before dying in Hester’s arms. Only Hester can face the future bravely as she prepares to begin a new life with her daughter, Pearl, in Europe.
The scarlet letter of the title that the puritanicalcommunity of 17th-century Boston forces adulteress Hester to wear is a gold-bordered, embroidered “A.” As both a badge of shame and a beautifully wrought human artifact, it reflects the many oppositions in the novel, such as those between order and transgression, civilization and wilderness, the town and the surrounding forest, adulthood and childhood. The more this society strives to keep out wayward passion, the more it reinforces the split between appearance and reality. The members of this community who are ostensibly the most respectable are often the most depraved, while the apparent sinners are often the most virtuous.
The novel also crafts intriguing symmetries between social oppression and psychological repression. Dimmesdale’s sense of torment at his guilty secret, and the physical and mental manifestations of his malaise, reflects the pathology of a society that needs to scapegoat and alienate its so-called sinners. Eventually, personal integrity is able to break free from social control.
Perhaps more than any other novel, The Scarlet Letter effectively encapsulates the emergence of individualism and self-reliance from America’s puritan and conformist roots.
The Scarlet Letter Essay
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The Scarlet Letter Introduction The Scarlet Letter is a classic tale of sin, punishment, and revenge. It was written in 1850 by the famous American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It documents the lives of three tragic characters, each of whom suffer greatly because of his or her sins. Shot Plot The story begins with Hester Prynne, a resident of a small Puritan community, being led from the town jailhouse to a public scaffold where she must stand for three hours as punishment for adultery. She must also wear a scarlet A on her dress for the rest of her life as part of her punishment. As she is led to the scaffold, many of the women in the crowd complain that…show more content…
When Chillingworth asks Hester the identity of her lover, she refuses to answer. Because of this, Chillingworth makes her promise never to reveal that he is her husband. After Hester is released from prison, she goes to live in a small cottage at the edge of town. After a few years, people begin to notice that her daughter, Pearl, behaves very strangely, and they threaten to take her away from Hester. Hester takes Pearl to Governor Bellingham's mansion planning to plead for the right to keep her daughter. At the mansion she is met by the governor and his three guests, Reverend Wilson, Reverend Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. Reverend Dimmesdale convinces the governor to allow Hester to keep Pearl. Chillingworth, who has been living with Reverend Dimmesdale since his arrival in town, begins to suspect that Reverend Dimmesdale is the father of Pearl. One evening while Dimmesdale is sleeping, Chillingworth examines Dimmesdale's chest and finds something which confirms his suspicion. From this moment on, Chillingworth devotes himself to seeking revenge. One night, Dimmesdale is so tormented by his conscience that he goes and stands on the scaffold that Hester had stood on seven years earlier. As he is standing there, he sees Hester and Pearl walk by and he calls them onto the scaffold with him. After he acknowledges his guilt to them, a giant red A