The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Scarlet Letter

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthrone masterfully weaves many themes and uses character development to format the plot of this novel. The themes of The Scarlet Letter are carried out through the four main characters -- Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingsworth, and Pearl -- and also through symbolism. In this novel, Hawthrone hoped to show that although Hester and Dimmesdale sinned, they achieved the wisdom of self knowledge and inner growth through their suffering.


Before the novel actually starts, there is a section of the book entitled "The Custom House". While this is not an integral part of the novel, it provides insight into Nathaniel Hawthrone, the man. Here it is learned that Hawthrone’s ancestors were strict Puritans (he was born in Salem). One of his ancestors was considered a "hanging judge" and was actually a judge in the Salem Witch Trails. This is why Hawthrone has an interest in the Puritan period.

Although Hawthrone did not actually participate in the Puritan period, he still felt guilty about what his ancestors did. He was angered by the hypocrisy of the church who condemned sins, yet committed them and was also angered by the government. This becomes apparent to the reader throughout the course of the novel. In fact, The Scarlet Letter was a way for Hawthrone to vent his frustrations with the institutions.

Brief Summary of the Novel

The Scarlet Letter is a novel revolving around a woman who committed the sin of adultery in a small Puritan town in seventeenth-century Boston. Hester Prynne, the adulteress, refuses to reveal her lover’s name, and as a result is forced to wear a large, red "A" on her bosom. This is to tell everyone of her sin. Hester is also forced to live isolated with her daughter, Pearl, who is the result of her sin. Meanwhile, the small Puritan town remains very devoted to and very proud of their young minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. What they do not know is that it is Dimmesdale who is Hester’s Lover and Pearl’s father. The fact that Dimmesdale keeps his sin a secret is tearing him up, both physically and emotionally. To complicate matters even more, Hester’s old and slightly deformed husband is back. He had stayed in England for quite a while allowing Hester to settle into their new home.
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