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Hawthorne, Nathanial-The scarlet letter

Plot

The novel consists in 24 chapters. The novel opens with the narrator finding a manuscript and a piece of cloth with a “A” on it. When he loses his job, he decides to write a novel about the events recorded in the manuscript, which took place some two hundred years before. The result is “The Scarlet Letter”.Hester Prynne is a young woman who lives in Boston and whose husband has been away for a while. During his absence he has a love affair with the respectable Revered Arthur Dimmesdale and she gives birth to a baby girl called Pearl. However, nobody know who Pearl’s father is. Because of her sin she has to wear a scarlet “A”, which is a mark of adultery, all the time. She also has to live alone with her daughter. In the meantime her husband comes to Boston. He chooses a false name for himself, Chillingworth and decides to keep an eye on Hester in order to find out who her lover is and take revenge. Arthur Dimmesdale seems to suffer from some mysterious health problems. Chillingworth believes there may be a link between Dimmesdale’s sufferings and Hester’s secret. One afternoon, while the Reverend is sleeping Chillingworth find out that he is Hester’s lover. Dimmesdale, who is still in love with Hester, is persecuted by his sense of guilt but he can’t confess his sin because he’s afraid of losing his respectability. Because of his inner conflict he goes insane.After seven years Hester forgives Dimmesdale and suggests they should go to Europe and live there together with Pearl. Hester feels finally free and to express it she unties her hair and removes her scarlet letter from her breast. However, Pearl doesn’t recognize her mother. Dimmesdale decides to make a public confession. He shows everyone the letter “A” he has marked on his chest to punish himself. He dies in Hester’s arms when he has finished speaking.

Characters

Hester Prynne: she’s a determined young woman, loyal to her lover and ready to pay for her sin. She becomes a sacrificial goat in a community which is obsessed with sex and has very strict moral codes.
Arthur Dimmesdale: she’s a Reverend and a respectable man. He’s Hester’s secret lover and Pearl’s father. He’s persecuted by his sense of guilt but he’s unable to confess his sin and face his responsibilities. For this reason he’s the symbol of Puritan Hypocrisy.
Mr Wilson: he’s an elderly clergyman and a scholar who embodies the strict moral codes of Puritan people in New England.

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