Novel Summary of
The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a novel about sin, human nature, and the acts and conditions of evil in Puritan New England. It holds many objects of symbolism and acts of convenience. The book has five main characters: the narrator, Hester Prynne, her daughter Pearl, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth.
The novel begins with an introductory about how the narrator comes across the manuscript of The Scarlet Letter. As the narrator is described, he reveals many parallels to the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Hester Prynne bears a scarlet letter “A” on the front of her dress and holds her infant girl, Pearl, as she is mocked in the town square by the members of the town. She has committed the crime of adultery. Imprisoned, she will not reveal the name of her lover. Her husband, Roger Chillingworth, had sent her to New England before him, but he hadn’t yet arrived at the colonies until the day Prynne was set on the scaffold for her sin.
Hester Prynne is burdened by what has become of her and it seems to be contagious because Pearl is also an outcast. While Hester sits in jail, a doctor pays a visit to the prison. It is Roger Chillingworth, and she is sworn to secrecy about who he really is. He promises that he is seeking revenge on her acts. Chillingworth becomes a doctor in the colony. Time passes and Prynne is released from prison. She lives in a cottage outside of town as a seamstress who is still sorrowful and shunned by the community.
As the novel progresses, Reverend Roger Dimmesdale becomes increasingly ill. He is suffering from heart problems. Chillingworth already suspects that he is the father to Pearl. He requests that he take in home care of Dimmesdale to further investigate his suspicions. He questions Dimmesdale, but receives no lead because Dimmesdale knows what he is looking for. Chillingworth finally confirms his suspicions when he discovers a mark upon Dimmesdale’s chest.
Soon after, Prynne reveals Chillingworth’s identity to Dimmesdale. The couple plan to flee the community by a ship to England and live as a family with their daughter Pearl. With such a positive outlook on the future, Dimmesdale begins to heal. Chillingworth is on their tail and plans to travel to England with them, but when Prynne and Dimmesdale receive word of this, Dimmesdale reveals that he is the father of Pearl during a dramatic public sermon on the scaffold, and dies of sorrow and shame of his sin. Chillingworth dies within a year after Dimmesdale. Pearl and Hester leave the town, but Hester returns many years later and lives in the cottage until she dies and is buried next to Dimmesdale sharing a black headstone baring a scarlet “A”.
A “classic” novel is one that holds true years and years after it is written. It contains morals, values, and themes that still exist today. It’s a book that readers can relate to in countries all over the world. A classic is also one that important lessons can be learned from.
The Scarlet Letter is an example of a classic novel because it is about the consequences of sin. It focuses on a crime that still exists today: adultery. It discusses the results and how it affects everyone involved. Hester’s affair with Dimmesdale leads to her being jailed and ashamed. Dimmesdale is heart broken, doesn’t get to spend time with his daughter Pearl who is also suffering because of her mother’s sorrow, and he also tortures himself because he is too concerned with the public’s perception of him. Chillingworth is affected because it was his wife that committed the crime, and he becomes so obsessed with revenge that he contributes to his own self-destruction.
The novel also proves universal in theme and content. Adultery is still a common issue today and all over the world also. The book was written about 150 years ago and it still holds true. Even in other forms of sin, the themes of the nature of evil and the consequences of sin are still the same today as they were 150 years ago.
Timelessness is another quality that The Scarlet Letter possesses, which classifies it as a classic novel. Similar to the universality of the novel after 150 years, the book is still of interest to readers. It is a story about problems in life and the specific problems from the story are still relevant in today’s society. Adultery, criticism, lies, revenge, anger, and sorrow are all present issues in society everywhere. This quality allows readers relate or be familiar with the concept. Connecting with the book is important. The fact that The Scarlet Letter contains many different themes allows more than just one group of readers to connect to its message.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter is a great example of a classic novel for its obvious elements of timelessness, universality, and morality.