Monday, 11 June 2012

The Scarlet Letter

Date of Reading: 06/08/2007
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Publisher: Harper & Row
Place: New York
Year: 1958

              One of the best books I have ever read; well, the vocabulary could cause a problem to those who are not used to classics, even so . . . its worth a try. There is history, romance (oh, not that much) and the story can be classified as one of  sin and its punishment ones, when man forgets that rules are for men, not men for rules.
             Story is set in 17th century Puritan Boston which is dominated by a stern code of behaviour and an unrelenting judgement on those who sinned against it. The code was inhumanly rigid and the judgements so literal they were blind; the result was a special evil of its own.
             Hester Prynne is the wife of a learned man, English by birth. He has dwelt long in Amsterdam but in a time decides to cross over and cast his lot with the Massachusetts. To this purpose, he sends his wife before him, remaining himself to look after some necessary affairs. But even after two years no sign of this man is found; Hester becomes pregnant by someone and gives birth to a girl child.
              She is trialed and is sentenced to wear the scarlet letter 'A' on her breast so that everyone will know and despise her as an adulteress. But even under great pressure, she doesn't reveal the man. On the very day of the happenings of these events her long lost husband comes back to town and is appalled by these turn of the events. His sole aim now is to find the secret lover and for that he takes the disguise of a physician and introduces himself as Roger Chillingworth. Hester unwillingly promises to keep his true identity  a secret.
           Her child is named Pearl and the story continues when she turns seven years old. Chillingworth has by then achieved his fame and is now the personal physician of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister who suffers from poor health. Chillingworth is convinced that something troubles Arthur's mind which causes the ill-health and concludes rightly that this is his wife's lover. His way of revenge is to increase his mental torture.
            Hester watches this painfully and confesses the truth to Arthur and they decide to leave the place together. But at the end when he sees that his time is near, he confesses his secret guilt publicly from the same spot where Hester stood convicted and dies in her arms. On his chest they find the letter 'A' marked in flesh.

 Nathaniel Hawthorne

            Chillingworth is touched and when he dies most of his property is left to little Pearl. She and her mother leave the country and Hester comes back after many years and spends the rest of her life in helping poor and needy. Pearl is married off and is well settled in the continent. Hester is buried beside Dimmesdale's grave.


  1. A classic is a classic. It offers windows to the times. You have summarised it well. My only gripe is you have revealed the entire story.

    1. Well, this is actually a blog providing summaries for non-readers. I don't think classics need any introductions or reveiws to be read.

    2. I do not mind revealed classics. Anyway , I read them over and over when I forget the flow :-)

      This is the first book I read and understood in my teens. ( decades back). Even now , it holds fresh. I got hooked to English fiction reading then on..

      Enjoyed your post.


  2. A wonderful summary of a remarkable book. Ageless and timeless such books are.

  3. Hi Finitha,
    Saw your post at the Book Blogs group and am following you. My blog is at:

    Hillary Jordan wrote a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter. It was released last year; it's called "When She Woke". Have you read it?


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