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(Short) Scarlet Letter Essay

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The Scarlet Letter opens with a long introduction about how the book came to be. The narrator was an employee of a customhouse in Salem, Massachusetts. In the customhouse he discovered a number of papers scattered around the storehouse a manuscript was bundled with a scarlet fancily embroidered scrap of high quality cloth in the shape of an A. The manuscript was the work of a past citizen of the town. It detailed events that occurred around two hundred years before the writer's time. When he lost his customs post, he decided to write an interpretive account of the events detailed in the manuscript. The book, "The Scarlet Letter" was the final product.

The story begins in early Boston, which was then a Puritan settlement. The main character, a young woman named Hester Prynne is led from the town prison with her baby daughter Pearl in her arms and the scarlet letter on her clothes. A man in the crowd tells another important character that Hester is being punished for adultery. The man turns out to be Hester's husband a scholar much older than she is. He sent her ahead to America, but he never arrived in Boston. The consensus is that he has been lost at sea. While waiting for her husband, Hester has apparently had an affair as she has given birth to a child. She will not reveal her lover's identity however the scarlet letter, along with her public humiliation by standing in the town square, is her punishment for her sin and her unbreakable code of silence. On this day Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child's father.

Her husband conceals his name and blends in with the town. He easily does this because he practices medical routines and is calling himself Roger Chillingworth. He settles in Boston almost psychotically intent on revenge. He reveals his true identity to no one but Hester whom he has sworn to secrecy. Several years pass. Hester supports herself by working as a seamstress and Pearl grows into a willful impish child. Shunned by the community, they live in a small cottage on the outskirts of Boston. Community officials attempt to take Pearl away from Hester but with the help of Arthur Dimmesdale, a young and eloquent minister the mother and daughter manage to stay together. Dimmesdale however appears to be wasting away and suffers from mysterious heart trouble seemingly caused by psychological distress. Chillingworth attaches himself to the ailing minister and eventually moves in with him so that he can provide his patient with round-the-clock care. Chillingworth also suspects that there may be a connection between the minister's torments and Hester's secret and he begins to test Dimmesdale to see what he can learn. One afternoon while the minister sleeps Chillingworth discovers a mark on the man's chest, which convinces him that his suspicions are correct.

Dimmesdale's psychological anguish deepens and he invents new tortures for himself. In the meantime Hester's charitable deeds and quiet humility have earned her a reprieve from the scorn of the community. One night when Pearl is about seven years old she and her mother are returning home from a visit to a deathbed when they encounter Dimmesdale atop the town scaffold trying to punish himself



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