The Scarlet Letter Summary- Pages 1-50 Essay

The Scarlet Letter is an intriguing yet somewhat gloomy story of an adulterous named Hester Prynne who has a child, Pearl, born out of wedlock. Her punishment is to wear a letter A for “adulterous” on her chest for a lifetime as well as imprisonment. The setting takes place in dreary Boston, Massachusetts during the seventeenth century. It starts off outside the colonies prison, with the townsmen and women awaiting the exit of Hester Prynne, the adulterous of the town. As she walks out of the heavy prison door with infant in hand, she reveals to the crowd something far from ordinary.

If a woman is told to wear the letter A as a form of punishment, she is usually very discontent with the unsettling public form of penalty. Hester, on the other hand, shows that she has decorated her A with scarlet and gold fanciful embroidery, proving that this sin is one she is not to be ashamed of. As she makes her way from the prison doorway to the scaffold to be publically looked down upon and humiliated for three hours, the crowd of men, women, and children yell at her with harsh words and rude language.

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In front of the public, a few of the town council members ask her whom the father of the child is, in which she will not tell. She recognizes her husband in the crowd of rioters; the man in which she did not love, but whom she was a token to. He again asks for the name of the man to which Pearl belongs, but yet again Hester Prynne does not give out that information. She is then escorted back to her cell in the prison. A doctor is called to check on Pearl and Hester to make sure both are physically and somewhat emotionally healthy.

The doctor, of course, turns out to be her husband. Roger Chillingworth, as he is now calling himself, gives a cup of medicine for Hester to give Pearl, as well as for Hester to take herself. Hester is very reluctant and first, assuming that it is a type of lethal remedy given out of hatred. He assures her that he wants her to live, only so he can seek out revenge on the father of the non-wedlock born daughter. After a page or so worth of their conversation, Roger tells her to never tell a soul that they are really husband and wife.

In the last chapters of our reading, we learn that the previous chapters were all in the past to fill the reader with background information. After a few harsh months, Hester is released from prison. It seems as if Hester is foreign to everyone in the town. She is allowed to leave, but instead she moves into a cabin away from the town center. She is doing well for herself. She is busy working as a seamstress for many locals and events. It seems that her impeccable needlework isn’t overseen due to her sinful crime.

There is much detail given about Pearl. It is obvious that her mother really loves her, despite what unfortunate mishap that has been brought onto Hester. What I take from the readings, is that Pearl is also looked down upon because of her circumstances. She is ridiculed, which Hester worries about. I feel that the biggest piece of symbolism is the letter A on Hester Prynne’s bosom. It first off, symbolizes the adultery in which Hester committed. It constantly is topic for discussion in public ridicule.

The dazzling embroidery of gold and scarlet though, proves not only that despite being a criminal she is excellent at her job as a seamstress; which we later find out that the town needs her for her great needlework, but also that it seems to not be as shameful to Hester as it would be to some. She wears it as a type of embellishment or jewelry with her attire, instead of a red felt devilish A. All in all, despite Hester’s crime, I would describe her as a very brave and strong woman with deep love for her daughter in which caused all the hurtful and cruel acts of punishment.


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