The Scarlet Letter


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(1850)



"The Scarlet Letter", a classic romantic novel of suspense and intrigue, takes on the themes of pride, sin and vengeance with a burning passion that made it the controversial novel of its time. In a devout Puritan town, a young married woman named Hester Prynne conceives a child. There is a catch, however; her husband has been missing for years. Hester is sent to prison, where she gives birth and calls the child Pearl, for she is her mother's only treasure. As her punishment, Hester is brought into the marketplace and is forced to wear a SCARLET LETTER upon her breast, which she proudly embroiders with gold thread. Hester is satisfied, and ready to lead a quiet life with Pearl as a seamstress as she had before, but her composure leads us to wonder: who is the child's father, and how will he cope with his guilt? And when the clever husband returns, shall the father survive his venomous wrath?--Submitted by Lee Eliot


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Recent Forum Posts on The Scarlet Letter

Scarlet Letter Help

In the ending of the Scarlet Letter I am not exactly sure how Dimmesdale dies. I, at first, thought he stabbed himself but then after thinking about it I don't think that is quite right. Can anyone help me?


Homework Help - Point of View

I have a pretty solid understanding of The Scarlet Letter but I have a very difficult worksheet... Maybe my mind just isn't working after the essay. Question 1: What is meant by "thematic definition"? How do you think point of view helps to discover the theme or themes of a story? Is there a term called "thematic definition" or do you think I am being asked for the definition of theme? As far as the second part of the question goes, would I be crazy to say that in 3rd person, the theme is usually openly stated while it is typically implied through the character arc in 1st person? Question 2: What is meant by "dramatic definition"? How might point of view help you discover the structure of a story? This question has me completely lost... Question 3: What is the point of view of this novel? It's between Privileged or Effaced. Does Hawthorne enter the consciousness of his characters or does he reveal their thoughts and feelings through their actions?


Question regarding a theme in Hawthorne's portrayal of Pearl

For a short essay I need to write, I need to find a theme that a reader might infer from Hawthorne's portrayal of Pearl as an atypical child. What can you all make of this?


Scarlet Letter- 3 crowds quotes

Can anybody help me on finding qoutes for the 3 crowds in scarlet letter?


Hey i need help asap

so i started readingthe scarlet letter and i have to answer questions on the custom house. Im not looking for someone to give me the answer..id like to be able to actually understand the book! 1.Why does Hawthorne use the phrase "But, one idle rainy day . . . "? What types of novels and stories often begin with such descriptions? 2.The unopened documents Hawthorne describes are part of the fiction he creates. What details does he include to persuade his reader he is describing actual, historical documents? 3.In the paragraph describing the scarlet letter, Hawthorne combines concrete descriptive details with a concluding sentence focusing on the strange feeling the letter evokes in him. What effect is created by this combination of concrete and mystical language? 4.What does Hawthorne mean to signify by his account of the "burning heat" of the letter? How does this detail affect his pose as a historian presenting an account of actual events? 5.What view of Hester Prynne's character does the old Surveyor's document convey? What does Hawthorne claim are the similarities and differences in The Scarlet Letter and the historical artifacts he discovered? Why do you think Hawthorne made up this story claiming a historical basis for The Scarlet Letter ?


Anagrams and Hallucinations

A few years ago, I went without sleep for three days and two nights in a row because I was sitting in front of my computer, hopped up on energy drinks and restlessness, researching and writing 3 massive midterm essays. In my delusional state, I randomly hallucinated just enough to believe that Dimmesdale is an anagram for: misled man. If you work it out, it doesn't fit, but it actually could be: made misled, or probably various others. I think the idea came to me from reflecting helter-skelter, where something an old prof told me resurfaced about reading the character Aminadab's name backwards as "Bad Anima" . Has anyone else come across their own anagrams, similar to what I've mentioned, in this book? Or was that a crazy/beautiful discovery I can write home about?


Scarlet Letter Analysis

I am not a professional analyzer, but here is my analysis paper. I hope that it can help others understand the story better. “Nevertheless,” said the mother calmly, though growing more pale, “this badge hath taught me, -- it daily teaches me,-- it is teaching me at this moment,-- lessons whereof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself (pg. 98).” This part of the story is when Hester and Pearl go to visit Governor Bellingham at his mansion, to bring him a pair of gloves, fit to his order. After Hester’s banishment, she began doing seamstress work for many people of the Puritan colony. Mr. Wilson, Roger Chillingsworth, and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale accompanied Bellingham at his home when Hester came to visit. While I read this passage for the first time, I had to reread it, and the second time it was better. I imagined that I was Hester, explaining to these men that I deserved to keep my daughter, because her ‘scarlet letter’ has taught her better. While she’s basically begging to keep her daughter, can you imagine how she looked? Flushed and pale as the passage reads, her hands were probably clammy, and her voice probably a little shaky too. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to walk through town, with, pretty much, a sign exclaiming your sin to everyone. I can’t stand it when people stop and stare, I’d probably make faces at them. During this time women were still subservient, I think that’s the right word, and generally, had no say in what happened to them. These magistrates could easily enough take Pearl away from Esther. She explains to them that her red letter teaches her always, and it in turn helps her teach her daughter better. Even though teaching her daughter better will not profit her in any way. Do you recall, back at Hester’s cottage one day, when Pearl was throwing rocks at her Mothers ‘scarlet letter, how saddened Hester must have felt. She knows what she’s done was wrong, but I think she knew that when she had to stand before everyone holding Pearl. How has Hester’s experience taught Pearl? Walking through town she’s learned to ignore the snickers, well, almost, because she does throw rocks at them. The older she gets the more she’ll be able to learn and understand from her Mothers experiences. Even though, throughout the book, many people seem to believe that Pearl is just as much as a sinner as her mother. Will Pearl get a fighting chance to prove, or disprove, that her mother’s sins, are not hers as well. Everyone person makes their own decisions, and those choices will directly affect the individual. Our choices, although, do affect others, more particularly our family and loved ones. I believe that at this point in the story, this passage is a breakthrough for Hester. She’s been living with her sin, but she hasn’t had to answer for it until then. I don’t think she thought they’d take Pearl from her, unless for obvious reasons, but she’s a better mother than that. If Pearl doesn’t learn from her Mothers mistakes, will she also fall into sin? What would happen to Hester, if Pearl were to fall into this sin? Unfortunately, they’d probably hang her. Too often in this time period were people to quick to judge, in my opinion. I don’t think that she should have had to stand in front of everyone, go to jail, or be banished. If this were to happen today, which adultery does, they wouldn’t face the publicized embarrassment that Hester did. Kimberly


Essay topic help

My literature extended essay in on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


Plot Analysis Of "The Scarlet Letter"

Plot construction in “The Scarlet Letter” The scarlet letter is the story of women’s shame and cruel treatment she suffers at the hands of puritan’s society in which she lives. A young woman, Hester Prynne, is led from the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl; in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her breast. A man in the crowd tells an elderly onlooker that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester’s husband, a scholar much older than she is, sent her ahead to America, but he never arrived in Boston. The consensus is that he has been lost at sea. While waiting for her husband, Hester has apparently had an affair, as she has given birth to a child. She will not reveal her lover’s identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her public shaming, is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. On this day Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child’s father “I have already told thee what I am! Fiend! Who made me so?' 'It was myself!' cried Hester, shuddering.” The elderly onlooker is Hester’s missing husband, who is now practicing medicine and calling himself Roger Chillingworth. He settles in Boston, intent on revenge. He reveals his true identity to no one but Hester, whom he has sworn to secrecy. Hester supports herself by working as a seamstress, and Pearl grows into a willful, impish child. Shunned by the community, they live in a small cottage on the outskirts of Boston. Community officials attempt to take Pearl away from Hester, but, with the help of Arthur Dimmesdale, a young and eloquent minister, the mother and daughter manage to stay together. Dimmesdale says that, “I have a strange fancy,' observed the sensitive minister, 'that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again” Dimmesdale, however, appears to be wasting away and suffers from mysterious heart trouble, seemingly caused by psychological distress. Chillingworth attaches himself to the ailing minister and eventually moves in with him so that he can provide his patient with round-the-clock care. Chillingworth also suspects that there may be a connection between the minister’s torments and Hester’s secret, and he begins to test Dimmesdale to see what he can learn. One afternoon, while the minister sleeps, Chillingworth discovers a mark on the man’s breast which convinces him that his suspicions are correct. Hawthorne is of the view in “The Scarlet Letter” that, “Few secrets can escape an investigator, who has opportunity and license to undertake such a quest, and skill to follow it up. A man burdened with a secret should especially avoid the intimacy of his physician” Dimmesdale’s psychological anguish deepens, and he invents new tortures for himself. In the meantime, Hester’s charitable deeds and quiet humility have earned her a reprieve from the scorn of the community. One night, when Pearl is about seven years old, she and her mother are returning home from a visit to a deathbed when they encounter Dimmesdale atop the town scaffold, trying to punish himself for his sins. Hester and Pearl join him, and the three link hands. Dimmesdale refuses Pearl’s request that he acknowledge her publicly the next day, and a meteor marks a dull red “A” in the night sky. Hester can see that the minister’s condition is worsening, and she resolves to intervene. She goes to Chillingworth and asks him to stop adding to Dimmesdale’s self-torment. Chillingworth refuses. Hester says to chillingworth, “Satan dropped it there; I take it, intending a scurrilous jest against your reverence. But, indeed, he was blind and foolish, as he ever and always is…” Hester arranges an encounter with Dimmesdale in the forest because she is aware that Chillingworth has probably guessed that she plans to reveal his identity to Dimmesdale. The former lovers decide to flee to Europe, where they can live with Pearl as a family. They will take a ship sailing from Boston in four days. Both feel a sense of release and Hester removes her scarlet letter and lets down her hair. Pearl, playing nearby, does not recognize her mother without the letter. The day before the ship is to sail, the townspeople gather for a holiday and Dimmesdale preaches his most eloquent sermon ever. Meanwhile, Hester has learned that Chillingworth knows of their plan and has booked passage on the same ship. Dimmesdale, leaving the church after his sermon, sees Hester and Pearl standing before the town scaffold. He impulsively mounts the scaffold with his lover and his daughter, and confesses publicly, exposing a scarlet letter seared into the flesh of his chest. He falls dead, as Pearl kisses him. Hawthorne remarks here that, “Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a party, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek. They were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow” Frustrated in his revenge, Chillingworth dies a year later. Hester and Pearl leave Boston, and no one knows what has happened to them. Many years later, Hester returns alone, still wearing the scarlet letter, to live in her old cottage and resume her charitable work. She receives occasional letters from Pearl, who has married a European aristocrat and established a family of her own. When Hester dies, she is buried next to Dimmesdale. The two share a single tombstone, which bears a scarlet “A.” “A new grave was delved, near an old and sunken one, in that burial-ground beside which King's Chapel has since been built. It was near that old and sunken grave, yet with a space between, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle. Yet one tombstone served for both” It can be concluded here that the plot construction in “The scarlet Letter” is very beautiful in which Hawthorne represents the tragedy of a women’s shame that how she commits adultery with her lover and then how she faces the punishment for her love by the community. The story leads to the death of both lovers and at their graves were delved besides each other. They were served with the same tombstone of “A”.


Theme of "The Scarlet Letter"

“Theme of “The Scarlet Letter” Perhaps the foremost purpose of The Scarlet Letter is to illustrate the difference between shaming someone in public and allowing him or her to suffer the consequences of an unjust act privately. In accordance with a strict interpretation of the Bible, adultery was a capital sin that required the execution of both adulterer and adulteress--or at the very least, severe public corporal punishment. It is in this environment that Hester commits adultery with Dimmesdale, but we come to see that the public shaming cannot begin to account for all the complexities of the illicit relationship--or the context of it. What Hawthorne sets out to portray, then, is how the private thoughts, the private torture and guilt and emotional destruction of the people involved in the affair, are more than enough punishment for the crime. According to a famous critic, “It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society” We wonder whether the state or society has any right to impose law in private matters between citizens. More than a tale of sin, the Scarlet Letter is also an intense love story that shows itself in the forest scene between Hester and the minister Arthur Dimmesdale. With plans to run away with each, Arthur and Hester show that their love has surpassed distance and time away from each other. This love also explains why Hester would not reveal the identity of her fellow sinner when asked on the scaffolding. “There seemed to be no longer anything in Hester's face for love to dwell upon” The scarlet letter is symbolic in a number of different ways, but perhaps most in the ways that the sinners choose to wear it. Hawthorne's generative image for the novel was that of a woman charged with adultery and forced to wear the letter A upon her clothes, but upon wearing it, decided to add fancy embroidery as if to appropriate the letter as a point of pride. Dimmesdale, however, as the town minister, wears his own scarlet a burned upon his flesh, since it is the community's rage he fears the most. Thus we see the difference between a woman who has made peace with the crime, publicly confesses, and endures the suffering the community imposes, and a man who imposes his own punishment because he cannot bear to reveal the crime to the community. “I fear! I fear! It may be, that, when we forgot our God,--when we violated our reverence each for the other's soul,--it was vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion” Pearl embodies the theme of wilderness over against civilization. After all, she is a kind of embodiment of the scarlet letter: wild, passionate, and completely oblivious to the rules, mores, and legal statutes of the time. Pearl is innocence, in a way, an individualistic passionate innocence. So long as Dimmesdale is alive, Pearl seems to be a magnet that attracts Hester and Dimmesdale, almost demanding their reconciliation or some sort of energetic reconciliation. But as soon as Dimmesdale dies, Pearl seems to lose her vigor and becomes a normal girl, able to marry and assimilate into society. The implication is thus that Pearl truly was a child of lust or love, a product of activity outside the boundaries imposed by strict Puritan society. Once the flame of love is extinguished, she can properly assimilate. One of the famous critic is of the view that, “There was a fire in her and throughout her; she seemed the unpremeditated offshoot of a passionate moment” In the town, Hester usually is confronted with the legal and moral consequences of her crime. Governor Bellingham comes to take her child away. When he ask her name she says, “I am my mother's child,' answered the scarlet vision, 'and my name is Pearl!” Chillingworth reminds her of her deed, and she faces Dimmesdale in the context of sinner (his reputation remains untarnished despite his role in the affair). But whenever Hester leaves the town and enters the woods, a traditional symbol of unbridled passion without boundaries, she is free to rediscover herself. The woods also traditionally emblematize darkness. In the darkness of night, Hester is free to meet Dimmesdale, to confess her misgivings, and to live apart from the torment and burdens of the guilt enforced by the community. Dimmesdale too is free at night to expose his guilt on the scaffold and reconcile with Hester. Therefore Dimmesdale says, when he is on scaffold, “Come up hither, Hester, thou and little Pearl....Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!” It can be concluded here that “The Scarlet Letter” is the tragic story of a women’s shame and cruel treatment; she suffers at the hands of Puritan’s society in which she lives. In “The Scarlet Letter” Hester Prynne's offense against society occurred seven years earlier, but she remains punished for it. Hester learned to forgive herself for her adultery, but society continues to scorn her for it. Indeed, Hester reaches peace with her affair and in that peace comes to see the town as insufficiently forgiving in its thoughts and attitudes. Pearl is enough of a reminder of the wild choices in her past, and as Pearl grows up, Hester continues to live in the present rather than in the past. “Many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength”


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