CliffsNotes on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (Cliffsnotes Literature Guides)
Susan Van Kirk
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In CliffsNotes on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, you explore life in 17th-century Massachusetts as you follow the ordeal of Hester Prynne, who has been found guilty of adultery and sentenced to wear a scarlet letter A on her dress as a sign of shame. The Scarlet Letter is considered to be Hawthorne's finest work, depicting a world where the real meets the unreal, the actual meets the imaginary — in a classic story that is difficult to forget.
This study guide carefully walks you through every step of Hester's journey by providing summaries and critical analyses of each chapter of the novel. You'll also explore the life and background of the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and gain insight into how he came to write The Scarlet Letter. Other features that help you study include
- Character analyses of major players
- A character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the characters
- Critical essays on the novel's setting and structure, symbolism, and classification as a gothic romance
- A review section that tests your knowledge
- A Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites
Classic literature or modern modern-day treasure — you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.
confesses his misery and unhappiness. While Hester consoles him and mentions people’s reverence for him, the minister feels his guilt and hypocrisy even more. He compares his silence with her public confession and realizes how his hidden guilt is tormenting him. Hester, realizing how deeply her silence has permitted Dimmesdale to be tortured by her husband, seizes the moment to reveal Chillingworth’s secret. This torture has led to insanity and “that eternal alienation from the Good and True, of
over his heart. Seeing the scarlet letter on the ground and her mother’s hair sensuously falling about her shoulders, Pearl points her finger, stamps her foot, shrieks, and “bursts into a fit of passion.” Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s reactions to Pearl’s behavior vary. Hester realizes that Pearl recognizes the change in her (the letter is gone from her bosom and her hair is no longer hidden under a cap), and she hurries to fasten the hated badge to her dress and to draw her cap over her hair. She
nowhere else but on the scaffold can Dimmesdale escape him. The minister tells Hester that he is dying and must acknowledge his shame. Then he turns to the crowd and cries out his guilt. He steps in front of Hester and Pearlfate and declares that on his breast he bears the sign of his sin. He tears the ministerial band from his breast and, for a moment, stands flushed with triumph before the horrified crowd. Then he sinks down upon the scaffold. Hester lifts Dimmesdale’s head and cradles it
love, nor feigned any.” She kept her word in carrying her husband’s secret identity, and she tells the minister the truth only after she is released from her pledge. This life of public repentance, although bitter and difficult, helps her retain her sanity while Dimmesdale seems to be losing his. Finally, Hester becomes an angel of mercy who eventually lives out her life as a figure of compassion in the community. Hester becomes known for her charitable deeds. She offers comfort to the poor, the
seven long years earlier “Hester Prynne had lived through her first hours of public ignominy.” Although the crowd is gone, Pearl asks the minister if he will join her and Hester there at noontide. He replies that their meeting will be instead at the great judgement day rather than here in the daylight. As though to taunt him, a great meteor burns through the dark sky, illuminating the scaffold, the street, and the houses. Hawthorne describes the scene as “an electric chain,” the minister and his