The Symbolism and Significance of The Scarlet Letter: A Penguin English Library Analysis
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Classic Novel of Sin and Redemption
Have you ever read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne? If not, you are missing out on one of the most influential and powerful novels in American literature. Written in 1850, The Scarlet Letter is a masterpiece of historical fiction that tells the story of Hester Prynne, a woman who commits adultery in a Puritan community and is punished by wearing a scarlet letter 'A' on her chest for the rest of her life. Along with her illegitimate daughter Pearl, Hester faces ostracism, shame, and hardship in a society that values conformity over individuality.
the scarlet letter penguin english library
But The Scarlet Letter is not just a tale of sin and suffering. It is also a tale of redemption, courage, and love. As Hester struggles to find her place in the world, she also develops a sense of dignity and compassion that challenges the rigid moral code of her society. She is not alone in her quest for redemption; her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, a respected minister who conceals his role in Hester's sin, and her husband, Roger Chillingworth, a mysterious doctor who seeks revenge on Dimmesdale, are also tormented by their own guilt and secrets. Through these complex and flawed characters, Hawthorne explores the themes of human nature, morality, and freedom that are still relevant today.
In this article, we will give you an overview of The Scarlet Letter, its author, its themes, and its significance in American literature. We will also introduce you to the Penguin English Library edition of the novel, which is a great way to enjoy this classic work of fiction. Whether you are reading The Scarlet Letter for the first time or revisiting it after many years, we hope you will find this article helpful and informative.
The Plot of The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is set in Boston, Massachusetts, in the mid-17th century, when the colony was under the strict rule of the Puritans, a religious group that fled from England to escape persecution. The novel begins with a scene at the prison door, where a crowd of people is gathered to witness the public humiliation of Hester Prynne, a young woman who has been convicted of adultery. She is led to the scaffold, where she has to stand for three hours with her baby daughter in her arms and a scarlet letter 'A' embroidered on her dress. The letter 'A' stands for adulteress, and it is meant to mark Hester as a sinner and a social outcast.
As Hester stands on the scaffold, she sees her husband among the crowd. He has been away for two years, and he has arrived in Boston under the name of Roger Chillingworth. He is shocked and angry to see his wife in such a disgraceful situation, and he vows to find out the identity of her lover and make him pay for his crime. He also makes Hester promise not to reveal his true identity to anyone.
Hester refuses to name her lover, even when she is interrogated by the town's authorities, including Governor Bellingham, Reverend John Wilson, and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale is the young and eloquent minister of the church, and he is secretly Hester's lover and Pearl's father. He is tormented by his guilt and his inability to confess his sin. He pleads with Hester to speak out and save him from his misery, but she remains silent.
Hester is released from prison and moves to a small cottage on the outskirts of the town, where she lives with Pearl. She supports herself by working as a seamstress, making clothes for the townspeople. She also performs acts of charity for the poor and the sick, but she is shunned and scorned by most of the society. She is only allowed to stay in the colony because the authorities hope that her example will deter others from committing similar sins.
Pearl grows up to be a beautiful but wild and unruly child, who seems to have a natural affinity with nature and a disdain for human rules. She is fascinated by the scarlet letter on her mother's chest, and she often asks about its meaning and origin. Hester tries to teach Pearl about God and morality, but she finds it hard to explain her own situation and feelings.
Meanwhile, Chillingworth becomes Dimmesdale's personal physician and friend, pretending to care for his health and soul. In reality, he is secretly plotting to expose and destroy Dimmesdale, whom he suspects to be Hester's lover. He notices that Dimmesdale suffers from a mysterious ailment that affects his heart and mind, and he attributes it to his hidden sin. He also discovers that Dimmesdale has a scarlet letter 'A' carved on his chest, which he inflicts on himself as a form of penance.
As the years go by, Dimmesdale's condition worsens, and he becomes more frail and depressed. He decides to deliver a final sermon on Election Day, hoping to inspire his congregation before he dies. He also plans to run away with Hester and Pearl after the sermon, leaving behind his old life and starting anew in Europe. Hester agrees to this plan, hoping to find happiness and freedom with Dimmesdale.
However, their plan is thwarted by Chillingworth, who learns about their escape and arranges to join them on their voyage. On Election Day, Dimmesdale delivers a powerful sermon that moves his audience to tears and admiration. He then walks to the scaffold where Hester stood seven years ago, and he calls her and Pearl to join him. He confesses his sin in front of everyone, reveals his scarlet letter 'A', and asks God for forgiveness. He then dies in Hester's 71b2f0854b