The Scarlet Letter Summary

The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is about Hester Prynne, a woman who bears an illegitimate child. Though set in Puritan community centuries ago, the moral dilemmas of personal responsibility and consuming emotions of guilt, anger, loyalty and revenge are timeless.  
 The book begins with an essay titled “The Custom House” about the history of Hawthorne but it serves as nothing more than a preface.  The book begins by explaining how Hester Prynne had committed adultery and had a child with a man that was not her husband.  Hester will not tell who the father of the child (Pearl) is.  As a punishment for her sin, she must stand on a scaffold and receive the insults of the people for three hours and she must wear a scarlet “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life as a symbol of adultery.  We later find out that Hester was sent before her husband to Massachusetts, but her husband was captured by Indians on his way here.  He was believed dead by Hester.  However, she found him while standing on the scaffold serving her punishment.  Her husband (Roger Chillingworth) visited her in jail where she promises to keep the marriage a secret and he promises to get revenge on the father of the child.  Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and his friend John Wilson are introduced at the scaffold begging Hester to reveal the father of the baby so that he may suffer just as Hester does.  Ironically, it turned out that Arthur Dimmesdale was the father of the baby.  Roger Chillingworth who as a physician moved in with Reverend Dimmesdale because Dimmesdale was growing ill.  While living with Dimmesdale, he grew suspicious that Dimmesdale was the father of Pearl and sought revenge on him by torturing him mentally.  One night, his suspicions were confirmed when Chillingworth opened Dimmesdale’s shirt while he was sleeping and discovered a scarlet A on Dimmesdale’s chest.  Hester and Pearl were let out of prison when Pearl was a young girl. ...