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The Scarlet Letter

By Nathaniel Hawthorne (12)

The classic novel of guilt and redemption, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter tells a tragic tale that unfolded two centuries before, when a lovely young woman, named Hester Prynne, bore a child out of wedlock, and was shunned by the Puritan community. Her story begins as she is led out of prison, with her baby Pearl in her arms, and a scarlet “A” emblazoned on her dress. She is the presumed widow of the older Chillingsworth, who sent her on ahead to the colony, and may have drowned at sea. Chilingsworth has secretly arrived, and sets about tormenting the minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester’s former lover. One day, Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest, and the two speak of running away from the Puritan colony. However, Dimmesdale’s guilt forces him to condemn himself to the congregation, and he falls dead immediately afterwards. Hester and Pearl leave Boston, where Pearl marries and starts a family. Hester, now considered to be a helpful member of the community, is buried next to Dimmesdale when she dies. The wise and compassionate treatment of its major themes has won Hawthrone’s novel many admirers.

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