Scarlet Letter

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A novel by N. Hawthorne, published 1850.

The scene of the story is the Puritan New England of the 17th cent. An aged English scholar has sent his young wife, Hester Prynne, to Boston, intending to follow her, but has been captured by the Indians and delayed for two years. He arrives to find her in the pillory, with a baby in her arms. She has refused to name her lover, and has been sentenced to this ordeal and to wear for the remainder of her life the red letter A, adulteress, upon her bosom. The husband assumes the name of Roger Chillingworth. Hester goes to live on the outskirts of the town with her child, Pearl. Her ostracism opens for her a broader view of life, she devotes herself to works of mercy, and gradually wins the respect of the townsfolk. Chillingworth, in the character of a physician, sets out to discover her paramour. Hester's lover is, in fact, Arthur Dimmesdale, a young and highly revered minister. The author traces the steps by which Chillingworth discovers him, and the cruelty with which he fastens on and tortures him. When Dimmesdale at the end of seven years is on the verge of lunacy and death, Hester proposes to him that they shall flee to Europe. But he puts the idea from him as a temptation of the Evil One, makes public confession on the pillory, and dies in her arms.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804—1864) American novelist and short-story writer

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