The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne continues to be a compelling story of betrayal, revenge, sin, and forgiveness that still resonates with students today. Many students, especially female students, find themselves appalled with the community’s treatment of Hester Prynne, and intrigued by the boundaries she and her little Pearl push in a puritanical society.
The Scarlet Letter Plot Diagram / The Scarlet Letter Summary
Breathe not, to any human soul, that thou didst ever call me husband!
In 17th-Century Puritan Boston, Hester Prynne is on trial for adultery. She has a 3-month old baby named Pearl, and Hester refuses to name the father. As punishment, Hester must wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest for the rest of her life.
Hester’s long-lost husband “Roger Chillingworth” has finally made it to Boston, and he is angry. He dedicates himself to discovering Hester’s lover so that he can exact revenge. He swears Hester to secrecy. Meanwhile, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale suffers from an unknown ailment which seems to come from an internal struggle. Chillingworth poses as a doctor to help the ailing minister.
He tortured himself for his own guilt!
That Chillingworth made it appear through magic.
Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale reconnect when Pearl is seven, and they decide to run away together to Europe, after Dimmesdale’s final sermon, to be given on Election Day. Dimmesdale slowly becomes more ill with each passing day, and holds his hand over his heart in pain. Chillingworth discovers the family’s connection and plan; he books himself a ticket on the same ship with them.
Dimmesdale delivers his Election Day sermon with fervor and newfound energy. He ends by calling Hester & Pearl up to the scaffold, and acknowledges his part in Hester’s adultery and his guilt for not stepping forward as Pearl’s father seven years before. He tears open his shirt and reveals an “A” engraved into his skin, and then he dies.
The townspeople cannot believe what they have seen; some even outright deny that Dimmesdale had the “A” on his chest. Chillingworth dies within a year of Dimmesdale and leaves his entire inheritance to Pearl, making her very rich. Pearl and Hester leave New England for Europe soon after.
I DEFINITELY saw a letter A on his chest.
I did NOT see any A on the Reverend. At all.
Many years later, Hester returns to Boston and again lives in the little cottage she and Pearl once shared. She still wears the scarlet letter even though she doesn’t have to, and women in the town come to her for advice and respect her. She dies in Boston, and is buried near Dimmesdale.