The Scarlet Letter Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Scarlet Letter

A 17th century young woman faces persecution in the puritanical Massachusetts Bay Colony for having a child with a man who is not her husband. The Scarlet Letter is Hawthorne's response to the oppressive reality to Puritan society. After discovering his ancestors actually took place in the witch hunts, Hawthorne wrote this expressive novel about a woman who simply wanted to live. Hester Prynne, a young girl given away by her parents to man nearing the winter of his life, was sent to the New World, young and alone. Three years pass, and she suspects her husband may have died. In that time, she falls in love with the young Arthur Dimmesdale and becomes pregnant. It is obvious to the townsfolk and clergy that Hester committed adultery when young Pearl is born and no husband is to be found.
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Hester, however, will not reveal the identity of her lover, and is content to bare the shame of the scarlet letter on her own. When Mr. Prynne, soon-to-be-known as Roger Chillingworth, arrives, he begins a careful mind game to unravel the identity of Hester's lover, or at the very least, make him snap.   Hester ends up being a woman of great principle and quiet purpose. She accepts her sin as dictated to her by society and continues her life waiting for it to wear off. She believes she deserves it. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, never confesses and allows himself to be tormented by Chillingworth. Dimmesdale's lies lead to his downfall, and Chillingworth never gets his young wife. It is only Pearl who grows into a glorious being and settles into a fine life back in the old world, living off Roger Chillingworth's money.
Best part of story, including ending: Hawthorne does an excellent job of highlighting the hypocrisy of mankind as well as pointing out what it means to tell lies and hide from the truth.

Best scene in story: Arthur Dimmesdale clutches his chest and though there is nothing there believes he too bares a scarlet letter. He let Hester suffer alone for years. Soon, he pays for it.

Opinion about the main character: It is tough to read about a woman who allows all of these things to happen to her and who acts as if she's completed the worst sin in the world. I always wanted her to expose Dimmesdale (either that or get him to confess, grow up, then run away with him). Alas, life is never that simple.

The review of this Book prepared by Allison Marienne a Level 2 American Robin scholar

    This is the story of a young woman who fall in love with a young man in Colonial America. They find each other irresistible and concieve a child out of wedlock. In the Puritan world of early America this is a heinous crime and for this, Hester Prine the central character of the novel, is severely punished. With a battered heart she is forced out of town. In the forest where she now finds herself, she finds great comfort from the beauty that surrounds her and fulfillment in her beautiful young child. The townspeople still want her to answer the question she will not answer, who is the child's father, as he must bear the responsibility and the punishment he deserves. But Hester will not tell. Who is this golden child's daddy?
The review of this Book prepared by Suzanne Phillips

Hester Pryne, a young Puritan woman, is sent to America by her husband, an elderly doctor. The Doctor, under the name Roger Chillingworth, emigrates some time later. Chillingworth is just in time to see Hester released from prison with her infant daughter Pearl. Hester has been incarcerated for adultry and now must wear a scarlet "A". Chillingworth vows to find the lover even though Hester refuses to tell anyone who the father of her child is. Eventually Chillingworth does discover that young Walter Dimmesdale, the singularly spiritual minister of Hester's church, is the father. Chillingworth tortures Hester's caregiver turned lover over a long period of time. Hester finally tells Dimmesdale who Chillingworth is and the lovers think they can escape to the Old World. When Chillingworth learns of their plan, he gains passage on the same ship.
The review of this Book prepared by Paulette Halliday

When she is convicted of having committed adultery, Hester Prynne is forced to wear the scarlet letter "A" on her breast as a mark of shame. Her partner, the Reverend Dimmesdale, unidentified as Hester's lover, goes unpunished by the Puritan society and is little help to Hester in her long and continuous attempt to confront her problem and its consequences, including their daughter Pearl. It is up to Hester to find her own way to forgiveness and redemption.
The review of this Book prepared by Gary L. Pullman

Hester Prynne is a beautiful young woman living in New England in a puritan community. She has a child, a girl called pearl, but her husband has been absent for some time. She endures jail and humiliation rather than name the father of her child - who would face death were he revealed. When her husband returns, he is determined to hunt down the man who has cuckolded him and sets about taking his revenge. Hester quietly endures and survives, hiding her hopeless love for a man who does not deserve her and who lacks the courage to run off with her and make a new start.
The review of this Book prepared by Bryn Pearson

Chapter Analysis of The Scarlet Letter

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   American colonial period Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Married, fooling around?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   homemaker Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Nathaniel Hawthorne Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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