The Scarlet Letter Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Scarlet Letter: A Romance” at the end of the 19th century when public morals were still strict and unforgiving. But the events of the novel are set in the 17th century when the Puritan society possessed full control over human choices. 

The plot of the novel is centered about a lapse from the virtue of a young woman named Hester Prynne. She has to face total intolerance when becoming pregnant as a result of her affair with an unknown man. Stubborn, the woman won’t give out the name of her lover under any circumstances. Repressive views of the people around her renounced her and forced her to wear a letter “A” as a punishment for her committing adultery. 

The book is written in a slow and lengthy style where the author takes time to open his cards before the reader. All seven years of Hester’s life and the life of her daughter are full of accusations, ignorance, guilt, and disrespect. 

Slowly we realize that it’s the young minister who might have had an affair with the heroine. And it is her husband, who is considered dead and now hides behind another identity, that identifies the connection between Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale. 

Despite the hardships and terrible injustice, one can only admire the courage and fortitude of the protagonist. The woman doesn’t give in to hardships, doesn’t lose her humanity in the face of cruelty everywhere around her. She is proud and patient, knowing that her humble behavior and good work will earn her the trust of the community back. 

And it really happens so: towards the end of the book the inhabitants of Boston city, where the events take place, begin to appreciate Hester’s respect and self-standing. At the same time, the husband who is hiding from his past and her beloved minister reveal their cowardice and egoism. And the scarlet letter turns from a sign of shame into a symbol of unbreakable spirit.

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