1. The Scarlet Letter
2. Nathaniel Hawthorne
3. Date Published: 1850
“The Scarlet Letter” is a story of the public shaming of a woman named Hester Prynne. It takes place in the 17th Century Boston, Massachusetts. The story begins with Hester being released from prison and walking down to town scaffold. She is wearing an “A” on her chest, which stands for adulterer. She is carrying her baby Daughter, Pearl, as she stands on the scaffold receiving insults. She is on the scaffold because she committed adultery with another man while she was married.
Later, Hester’s long lost husband visits Hester in the prison. He has disguised himself as a physician and asks Hester not to reveal his true identity. His plan is to find Pearl’s father and seek his revenge. He uses the name Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth soon figures out that the father is the minister, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and he torments Dimmesdale’s mind and soul for the next seven years.
The Minister is too afraid to confess his sin publicly, but he cannot take the guilt any longer. Finally Hester sees what Chillingworth has done to Arthur, she reveals Chillingworth’s true identity to Arthur, and the two plan to run away together.
Although the two planned to run away together, Dimmesdale could not go through with it and finally confesses his sin to the town on the scaffold, shortly after he dies. Chillingworth dies not even a year later, and he gives all his fortune to Pearl. When Hester died she was buried next to Dimmesdale, where they shared the same tombstone.
For the most part, “The Scarlet Letter” is not historically accurate. However, it is a realistic portrayal of Puritan society. Puritans came to America to avoid the corruption and the Church of England. They used a system of discipline based on the Bible’s law. Hester’s public punishment was actually practiced during this time period. Hawthorne also accurately depicts the political structure of...
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