T.his paper summarizes the entire story of the scarlet letter in plain and easy to understand text

Essay by goodiegoodieCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2003

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The Scarlet Letter

The novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a captivating account of a Puritan community that experiences a halt in beliefs. The story deals with a woman, Hester, who commits adultery with a minister resulting in the birth of a child, Pearl. As a consequence of her sin of passion and refusal to name her lover, Hester is sentenced to wear an embroidered scarlet letter on her bosom. This letter becomes the emphasis of the novel and assumes many different roles.

Hawthorne starts the novel by allowing the reader to be enlightened with the sin committed. Hawthorne's use of symbolism is obvious throughout all of his characters and their personalities. All of the adult characters face the challenge of truth telling and acknowledgement of wrongdoing (Rust 215). The scarlet letter represents different ideals to different people. In the Puritan community, the letter is viewed as a moral obligation to inform others of Hester's sin, one they feel should be "dragged out into the sunshine" (Hawthorne 43).

They believe the letter symbolizes psychological and religious truth. The Puritans are "a people amongst whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that her mildest and severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful" (Hawthorne 40). Hawthorne says that "meager, indeed, and cold, was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for, from such bystanders at the scaffold" (Hawthorne 40). The Puritans are firmly against Hester's actions and feel that she has disgraced them along with herself. They feel that she must take responsibility for her actions. The effect of her punishment, however, is not what the Puritan's had hoped to achieve. Hester's sin has grown from that of passion to one purpose. Even with Hester's sympathetic attitude,