A Review Of The Scarlet Letter

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A Review of the Scarlet Letter The novel opens with an explanation of how the romance of The Scarlet Letter came to be presented as a story in its existing form. Having always wanted to be a “literary man';, Nathaniel Hawthorne talks about his three-year stint as a Surveyor in the Salem Custom House. Mostly filled with older gentlemen, the workplace was a very political, Whig-influenced environment and charged with Puritan history. After brief character sketches of the personalities in the Custom House, Hawthorne then explains how he came upon a special package among the piles of papers. It contained a red cloth with the letter “A'; embroidered in gold thread and a manuscript by Jonathan Pue (the man who once held Hawthorne’s job). Finding the story extremely interesting, the author thus retells the story of Hester Prynne from Massachusetts’s Puritan history. The first chapter begins with Hester being led to the scaffold where she is to be publicly shamed for having committed adultery. Hester is forced to wear the letter “A'; on her gown at all times as punishment for her crime. She has stitched a large scarlet “A'; onto her dress with gold thread, giving the letter an air of elegance. Hester carries Pearl, her daughter, with her. On the scaffold she is asked to reveal the name of Pearl’s father, but she refuses. In the crowd, Hester recognizes her husband from Amsterdam, Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth visits Hester after she is returned to the prison. He tells her that he will find out who the man was, and that he will read the truth on the man’s heart. He then forces her to promise never to reveal his own identity to anyone else. Hester moves into a cottage bordering the woods. She and Pearl live there in relative solitude. Hester earns her money by doing stitchwork for local dignitaries, but often spends her time helping the poor and sick. Pearl grows up to be wild, in the sense that she refuses to obey her mother. Roger Chillingworth earns a reputation as being a good physician. He uses his reputation to get transferred into the same home as Arthur Dimmesdale, an ailing minister. Chillingworth eventually discovers that Dimmesdale is the true father of Pearl, at which point he spends every moment trying to torment the minister. One night Dimmesdale is so overcome with shame about hiding his secret that he walks to the scaffold where Hester was publicly humiliated.
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