Sin, lust, adultery, guilt, hypocrisy, and damnation: one may not believe that these are just some of the themes of a book written in 1850. The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, includes all of these and more. The novel, which takes place in 1642 in Boston, Massachusetts, is a story about a young woman, Hester Prynne, who is found guilty of adultery. The story begins with Hester and her newborn child being led from the town jail to the scaffold, where she must stand for several hours in front of the town as part of her punishment. She has also been sentenced to wear the letter A upon her chest to show that she has committed adultery. Although this sin would usually lead to death, Hester's husband is thought to be dead, because he has not been seen for two years. In this time, Hester has had an affair, although she will not reveal who her lover is.
Many people try to convince her and bargain with her to reveal his identity, yet she still refuses. Ironically, she sees an onlooker in the crowd, who happens to be her long-lost husband that is supposedly dead, Roger Chillingworth. When he realizes what has happened in his absence, he sets his mind to find her partner and get revenge. He tells no one in the town that he is Hester's husband, and makes Hester swear that she will not tell either. The reader later finds out that Hester's lover happens to be the town's minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale's health decreases, because he is psychologically unstable which is caused by his guilt. The reader also sees another character develop throughout the novel. Hester and Arthur's product of sin, Pearl, becomes a young girl, and a devilish child.