The Scarlet Letter (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Nathaniel Hawthorne, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

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by Nathanial Hawthorne
     
 

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The novel begins with the narrator, a Custom House official, who happens to find a scarlet letter “A” in a box he finds one day in the office. The narrator then relates the story of Hester Prynne, the original bearer of the scarlet letter, who lived in Boston when it was just a small Puritan settlement in the seventeenth century.

Hester’s

Overview

The novel begins with the narrator, a Custom House official, who happens to find a scarlet letter “A” in a box he finds one day in the office. The narrator then relates the story of Hester Prynne, the original bearer of the scarlet letter, who lived in Boston when it was just a small Puritan settlement in the seventeenth century.

Hester’s story begins on a scaffold just outside the town prison. She has committed adultery, given birth to a child out of wedlock, and refuses to name the man with whom she had the affair. The village leaders hope to shame her into naming her lover by making her into a public spectacle. Even under intense pressure, Hester refuses to reveal her secret. She alone must bear the shame and isolation resulting from her actions. As a punishment, Hester is made to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest at all times. The letter “A” stands for adultery and causes her and her daughter to be scorned by the members of her community.

Hester’s former husband returns to witness Hester’s shame. He decides to seek revenge against the man who, in his opinion, ruined Hester’s life and stole his wife from him. He assumes a new name, Roger Chillingworth, and becomes known as a physician specializing in alternative medicine. He befriends the Reverend Dimmesdale, the sickly young minister. Chillingworth eventually determines that Dimmesdale is the father of Hester’s daughter, Pearl. He plots an elaborate scheme in order to avenge the wrong he perceives was committed by Dimmesdale.

Hester discovers Chillingworth’s plan to torture Dimmesdale on a daily basis, and recognizes that Dimmesdale’s health is significantly impacted by the revenge plot. Her secret is slowly killing the minister. As a result, Hester must break the promise she made years ago to never reveal the identity of Chillingworth in order to save Dimmesdale’s life.

She reveals Chillingworth’s true identity to Dimmesdale and begs for his forgiveness. She expresses her desire for Dimmesdale to leave the country for his own safety, but Dimmesdale does not want to be alone. Hester offers to leave with him, and they plan to leave on a ship bound for Europe in three days. However, both Hester and Dimmesdale are plagued by feelings of dread and doom that continue to interrupt their elation.

Another threat to their future happiness remains. Chillingworth is aware of the conversation between Hester and Dimmesdale. He remains committed to seeking revenge, and will use any means necessary to fulfill his need. Will Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale be able to start a new life as a family n Europe, or will Chillingworth finally attain his retribution?

Themes in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter include isolation, hypocrisy, the nature of evil, the role of a woman in society, the destructive power of guilt, revenge, and the pressures society places on individuals to conform. Symbolism is another literary device prevalent in the novel. Examples include the scarlet letter itself, the brook, the roses, and Pearl’s name. These literary devices and Hawthorne’s plot continue to resound with readers, allowing the novel to remain popular with readers today.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940016427898
Publisher:
Romeo Publications
Publication date:
03/30/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
715 KB

Meet the Author

The writer Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on the Fourth of July in 1804 and went on from there to establish himself as one of the great contributors to American literature. Like Forrest Gump, he seemed all his life to be surrounded by history. He was descended from a line of notorious Puritans, including a judge at the Salem witch trials. His college pals included poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future president Franklin Pierce. Henry David Thoreau planted Hawthorne a vegetable garden as a wedding present. Edgar Allan Poe wrote rave reviews of his books. The mourners at his funeral in 1860 included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Hawthorne spent most of his life in or around the Massachusetts towns of Salem and Concord, both of which played prominent roles in American history.

Hawthorne's books and stories drew heavily from America's Puritan history. His stories were pointed allegories that took aim at hypocrisy, sin, and corruption. Hawthorne's most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, practically ran through a checklist of the Seven Deadly Sins. His was not a rosy view of human nature. Perhaps because of this, Hawthorne kept mostly to himself. He was painfully shy and rarely invited anyone to the home he shared with his wife and three children. A friend of his said at the time, "I love Hawthorne, I admire him; but I do not know him. He lives in a mysterious world of thought and imagination which he never permits me to enter."1 If Hawthorne were alive today, he probably wouldn't even be on Facebook. Maybe it's easier to know him 150 years after his death, now that we have access to the journals and personal papers he fiercely guarded during his lifetime.

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