Four main characters (and one-sentence description of each)
1. Dimmesdale - He was a Reverend who had an affair with Hester and became the father of Pearl.
2. Hester - She was the adulteress who had an affair with Dimmesdale and mothered Pearls to be punished by society.
3. Pearl - She was the result of the affair between Hester and Dimmesdale and although she did not know that Dimmesdale was her father, she was drawn to him and remained as a reminder of the sin to Hester.
4. Chillingworth - He was married to Hester before she came to the New World and worked to get revenge on Dimmesdale through mental torture.
Two minor characters
1. John Wilson - He is a clergy man and the friend of Dimmesdale who in the beginning of the book tried to convince Hester to reveal the name of the father.
2. Governor Bellingham - He is the governor of Massachusetts and watches the proceedings of the adultery trial.
Three main settings
1. Salem, Massachusetts - This is the town where the book takes place. It is famous for the Salem witch trials.
2. Hester’s cottage - After her prison term, Hester leaves to outskirts of town and lives in a cottage by the sea where she works as a seamstress.
3. The scaffold - While few scenes happen on the scaffold, it is very significant since this was where the sins were revealed.
One paragraph plot outline
The book begins with an essay titled “The Custom House” about the history of Hawthorne but it serves as nothing more than a preface. The book begins by explaining how Hester Prynne had committed adultery and had a child with a man that was not her husband. Hester will not tell who the father of the child (Pearl) is. As a punishment for her sin, she must stand on a scaffold and receive the insults of the people for three hours and she must wear a scarlet “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life as a symbol of adultery. We later find out that Hester was sent before her husband to Massachusetts, but her husband was captured by Indians on his way here. He was believed dead and Hester. However, she found him while standing on the scaffold serving her punishment. Her husband (Roger Chillingworth) visited her in jail where she promises to keep the marriage a secret and he promises to get revenge on the father of the child. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and his friend John Wilson are introduced at the scaffold begging Hester to reveal the father of the baby so that he may suffer just as Hester does. Ironically, it turned out that Arthur Dimmesdale was the father of the baby. Roger Chillingworth who as a physician moved in with Reverend Dimmesdale because Dimmesdale was growing ill. While living with Dimmesdale, he grew suspicious that Dimmesdale was the father of Pearl and sought revenge on him by torturing him mentally. One night, his suspicions were confirmed when Chillingworth opened Dimmesdale’s shirt while he was sleeping and discovered a scarlet A on Dimmesdale’s chest. Hester and Pearl were let out of prison when Pearl was young girl. Hester was ordered to wear a scarlet A on her chest with strangely drew Pearl. Dimmesdale, feeling guilty, visits Hester and pearl. Then one night the three of them stood on the scaffold together and Dimmesdale imagines people mocking him as they should have seven years ago. He apologizes to Pearl and Hester for not being with them on the Scaffold. While they are on the scaffold, a meteor flies through the sky leaving a trail that looked like the letter A as a reminder of their sin. Hester tells Dimmesdale that her real husband is Chillingworth and that he wants revenge, badly. They decide to run away together on a ship on election day. That day, Hester discovered that Chillingworth bought a ticket for the same boat that she and Dimmesdale were going to take. Dimmesdale delivered the election day sermon, one of his best sermons ever spoken, and walks up to the scaffold with Hester and Pearl to reveal his sin to all his congregation. he confesses everything and falls ill and dies soon afterward. Hester leaves with Pearl. A few months later, Chillingworth dies and leaves Pearl a great sum of money. Hester and pearl move to England where she is looked upon as a wise woman. She continues to wear the scarlet letter there.
Two symbols and references
The most prominent symbol in the book is the scarlet “A.”
Hester was ordered to wear the scarlet “A” for a punishment of the rest
of her life. It stood for adultery and symbolized sin. It later
showed up on Dimmesdale’s chest under his shirt symbolizing his hidden
sin. It was a sin he had that no one knew about, much like the hidden
“A” on his chest. It also appeared in the sky when Hester and Dimmesdale
went onto the scaffold at night symbolizing that they would reveal their
sin to the town.
Another prominent symbol is Pearl. She relates to the scarlet letter, but while not symbolizing the sin itself, she symbolized the result of sin. Perhaps more than the scarlet letter, she was a constant reminder to Hester of her sin.
Two or three sentences on style
Hawthorne shows a large vocabulary and complex writing style in this work. His writing style sounded archaic and was often difficult to understand. The dialogues was not like natural speech but written as in prose just as everything else, very unlike the normal way people speak.
One or two sentences on dominant philosophy
The Scarlet Letter revolved around the idea of sin and redemption. It taught that sin cannot be cleansed unless it is revealed and confessed. Without confessing your sin, your sin stays with you and haunts you until you do.
Four short quotations typical of the work (include speaker, occasion)
1. “Take heed how thou deniest to him - who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself -the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!” Dimmesdale tries to convince Hester to reveal the name of the father while she is on the scaffold.
2. “He bears no letter of infamy wrought into his garment, as thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.” Chillingworth tells Hester in prison that he will get revenge upon the father of the child.
3. “She knew that her deed had been evil; she could have no faith therefore, that its result would be for good.” Hester knew the evil of her crime and that no good could come out of it.
4. “[Pearl is] the very brightest little jet of flame that ever danced upon the earth.” Hester says this of Pearl after she dressed her up to see the governor to keep custody.