The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is considered to be one of the greatest examples of true American literature. Its excellency of topic, characterization, and description has made it a permanent part of our history. Set in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s, it describes the life of Hester Prynne, a Puritan woman whose existence is marred by sin. The real genius of the book is found in its description. Hawthorne makes allusion, symbolism, and romanticism work toward one effect, making the reader feel as if she was there, watching it all happen, living through Hester’s struggle.
The story opens as a woman, Hester Prynne, is leaving a jail and heading toward a large scaffold in the middle of Salem town, where she, along with her newborn child, Pearl, is put on display as an example to all the people, to discourage them from committing such a sin as adultery. The sentence is given by a number of priests who feel compassion for her because her husband had been thought dead for so many years. She is ordered to wear a scarlet letter, “A” for adultery, on her breast for the duration of her stay in Salem. She is perversely unwilling to leave the place of her shame and outcast when she could easily have sailed away to England or to anywhere else on earth and been rid of her “mark of Cain.” At the scaffold, she sees her husband, just arrived from Indian imprisonment, standing in the crowd. He, naturally, is enraged by news of her unfaithfulness to him and to his memory, but carries it too far when he renames himself Roger Chillingworth and begins slowly to dis!
mantle the sanity of her lover, the Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale.
Disguised as an apothecary, Chillingworth dwells with Dimmesdale, supposedly to maintain his health, but really to sap his strength and to serve as a reminder of the young reverend’s sin. During the seven-year duration of the book, Hester becomes steadily stronger because of her mark, while Dimmesdale…