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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

Overview
The Scarlet Letter is an 1850 romantic work of fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

. It is considered to be his magnum opus
Magnum opus
Magnum opus , from the Latin meaning "great work", refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of a writer, artist, or composer.-Related terms:Sometimes the term magnum opus is used to refer to simply "a great work" rather than "the...

. Set in 17th-century Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 during the years 1642 to 1649, it tells the story of Hester Prynne
Hester Prynne
Hester Prynne, the young protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, is a woman condemned by her Puritan neighbors. The character has been called "among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature."...

, who conceives a daughter through an adulterous affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance
Repentance
Repentance is a change of thought to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to religious law...

 and dignity. Throughout the book, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism
Legalism (theology)
Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of...

, sin, and guilt.

The story starts during the summer of 1642, near Boston, Massachusetts, in a Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 village.
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Encyclopedia
The Scarlet Letter is an 1850 romantic work of fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

. It is considered to be his magnum opus
Magnum opus
Magnum opus , from the Latin meaning "great work", refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of a writer, artist, or composer.-Related terms:Sometimes the term magnum opus is used to refer to simply "a great work" rather than "the...

. Set in 17th-century Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 during the years 1642 to 1649, it tells the story of Hester Prynne
Hester Prynne
Hester Prynne, the young protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, is a woman condemned by her Puritan neighbors. The character has been called "among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature."...

, who conceives a daughter through an adulterous affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance
Repentance
Repentance is a change of thought to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to religious law...

 and dignity. Throughout the book, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism
Legalism (theology)
Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of...

, sin, and guilt.

Plot summary


The story starts during the summer of 1642, near Boston, Massachusetts, in a Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 village. A young woman, named Hester Prynne, has been led from the town prison
Prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 with her infant daughter in her arms, and on the breast of her gown "a rag of scarlet
Scarlet (color)
Scarlet is a bright red color with a hue that is somewhat toward the orange. It is redder than vermilion. It is a pure chroma on the color wheel one-fourth of the way between red and orange. Scarlet is sometimes used as the color of flame...

 cloth" that "assumed the shape of a letter." It is the uppercase letter "A
A
A is the first letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter Alpha, from which it derives.- Origins :...

." The Scarlet Letter "A" represents the act of adultery that she has committed and it is to be a symbol of her sin—a badge of shame
Badge of shame
A badge of shame, also a symbol of shame, mark of shame, or simply a stigma, is typically a distinctive symbol required to be worn by a specific group or an individual for the purpose of public humiliation, ostracism, or persecution...

—for all to see. A man, who is elderly and a stranger to the town, enters the crowd and asks another onlooker what's happening. The second man responds by explaining that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester's husband, who is much older than she, and whose real name is unknown, has sent her ahead to America whilst settling affairs in Europe. However, her husband does not arrive in Boston and the consensus
Consensus reality
Consensus reality is an approach to answering the philosophical question "What is real?" It gives a practical answer: reality is either what exists, or what we can agree seems to exist....

 is that he has been lost at sea. It is apparent that, while waiting for her husband, Hester has had an affair, leading to the birth of her daughter. She will not reveal her lover's identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her subsequent public shaming
Public humiliation
Public humiliation was often used by local communities to punish minor and petty criminals before the age of large, modern prisons .- Shameful exposure :...

, is the punishment for her sin and secrecy. On this day, Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child's father.

The elderly onlooker is Hester's missing husband, who is now practicing medicine and calling himself Roger Chillingworth
Roger Chillingworth
, originally Roger Prynne, is a fictional character in the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the story, he is the estranged husband of Hester Prynne, who reappears and proceeds to plot against Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale, and becomes an embodiment of evil, as his physical...

. He reveals his true identity to Hester and medicates her daughter. They have a frank discussion where Chillingworth states that it was foolish and wrong for a cold, old intellectual like him to marry a young lively woman like Hester. He expressly states that he thinks that they have wronged each other and that he is even with her — her lover is a completely different matter. Hester refuses to divulge the name of her lover and Chillingworth does not press her stating that he will find out anyway. He does elicit a promise from her to keep his true identity as Hester's husband secret, though. He settles in Boston to practice medicine there. Several years pass. Hester supports herself by working as a seamstress, and her daughter, Pearl, grows into a willful, impish child, and is said to be the scarlet letter come to life as both Hester's love and her punishment. Shunned by the community, they live in a small cottage on the outskirts of Boston. Community officials attempt to take Pearl away from Hester, but with the help of Arthur Dimmesdale
Arthur Dimmesdale
Arthur Dimmesdale is a fictional character in the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A Puritan minister, he has fathered an illegitimate child, Pearl, with Hester Prynne and seeks to hide the truth of his relationship with her....

, an eloquent minister, the mother and daughter manage to stay together. Dimmesdale, however, appears to be wasting away and suffers from mysterious heart trouble, seemingly caused by psychological distress. Chillingworth attaches himself to the ailing minister and eventually moves in with him so that he can provide his patient with round-the-clock care. Chillingworth also suspects that there may be a connection between the minister's torments and Hester's secret, and he begins to test Dimmesdale to see what he can learn. One afternoon, while the minister sleeps, Chillingworth discovers something undescribed to the reader, supposedly an "A" burned into Dimmesdale's chest, which convinces him that his suspicions are correct.


Dimmesdale's psychological anguish deepens, and he invents new tortures for himself. In the meantime, Hester's charitable deeds and quiet humility have earned her a reprieve from the scorn of the community. One night, when Pearl is about seven years old, she and her mother are returning home from a visit to the deathbed of John Winthrop
John Winthrop
John Winthrop was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer, and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of...

 when they encounter Dimmesdale atop the town scaffold, trying to punish himself for his sins. Hester and Pearl join him, and the three link hands. Dimmesdale refuses Pearl's request that he acknowledge her publicly the next day, and a meteor marks a dull red "A" in the night sky as Dimmesdale sees Chillingworth in the distance. It is interpreted by the townsfolk to mean Angel, as a prominent figure in the community had died that night, but Dimmesdale sees it as meaning adultery. Hester can see that the minister's condition is worsening, and she resolves to intervene. She goes to Chillingworth and asks him to stop adding to Dimmesdale's self-torment. Chillingworth refuses. She suggests that she may reveal his true identity to Dimmesdale.

As Hester walks through the forest, she is unable to feel the sunshine. Pearl, on the other hand, basks in it. They coincide with Dimmesdale, also on a stroll through the woods. Hester informs him of the true identity of Chillingworth. The former lovers decide to flee to Europe, where they can live with Pearl as a family. They will take a ship sailing from Boston in four days. Both feel a sense of relief, and Hester removes her scarlet letter and lets down her hair. The sun immediately breaks through the clouds and trees to illuminate her release and joy. Pearl, playing nearby, does not recognize her mother without the letter. She is unnerved and expels a shriek until her mother points out the letter on the ground. Hester beckons Pearl to come to her, but Pearl will not go to her mother until Hester buttons the letter back onto her dress. Pearl then goes to her mother. Dimmesdale gives Pearl a kiss on the forehead, which Pearl immediately tries to wash off in the brook, because he again refuses to make known publicly their relationship. However, he clearly feels a release from the pretense of his former life, and the laws and sins he has lived with.

The day before the ship is to sail, the townspeople gather for a holiday put on in honor of an election and Dimmesdale preaches his most eloquent sermon ever. Meanwhile, Hester has learned that Chillingworth knows of their plan and has booked passage on the same ship. Dimmesdale, leaving the church after his sermon, sees Hester and Pearl standing before the town scaffold. He impulsively mounts the scaffold with his lover and his daughter, and confesses publicly, exposing the mark supposedly seared into the flesh of his chest. He falls dead just after Pearl kisses him.

Frustrated in his revenge, Chillingworth dies a year later. Hester and Pearl leave Boston, and no one knows what has happened to them. Many years later, Hester returns alone, still wearing the scarlet letter, to live in her old cottage and resumes her charitable work. She receives occasional letters from Pearl, who was rumored to have married a European aristocrat and established a family of her own. Pearl also inherits all of Chillingworth's money even though he knows she is not his daughter. There is a sense of liberation in her and the townspeople, especially the women, who had finally begun to forgive Hester of her tragic indiscretion. When Hester dies, she is buried in "a new grave near an old and sunken one, in that burial ground beside which King's Chapel
King's Chapel Burying Ground
King's Chapel Burying Ground is a historic cemetery at King's Chapel on Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the oldest cemetery in the city and is a site on the Freedom Trail....

 has since been built. It was near that old and sunken grave, yet with a space between, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle. Yet one tombstone served for both." The tombstone was decorated with a letter "A", for Hester and Dimmesdale.

Sin


The experience of Hester and Dimmesdale recalls the story of Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 because, in both cases, sin results in expulsion and suffering. But it also results in knowledge—specifically, in knowledge of what it means to be immortal. For Hester, the scarlet letter functions as "her passport into regions where other women dared not tread", leading her to "speculate" about her society and herself more "boldly" than anyone else in New England.

As for Dimmesdale, the "cheating minister", his sin gives him "sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his chest vibrate[s] in unison with theirs." His eloquent and powerful sermons derive from this sense of empathy. The narrative of the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is quite in keeping with the oldest and most fully authorized principles in Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 thought. His "Fall" is a descent from apparent grace to his own damnation; he appears to begin in purity but he ends in corruption. The subtlety is that the minister's belief is his own cheating, convincing himself at every stage of his spiritual pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 that he is saved.

The rosebush, its beauty a striking contrast to all that surrounds it—as later the beautifully embroidered scarlet A will be–is held out in part as an invitation to find "some sweet moral blossom" in the ensuing, tragic tale and in part as an image that "the deep heart of nature" (perhaps God) may look more kind on the errant Hester and her child than her Puritan neighbors do. Throughout the work, the nature images contrast with the stark darkness of the Puritans and their systems.

Chillingworth's misshapen body reflects (or symbolizes) the anger in his soul, which builds as the novel progresses, similar to the way Dimmesdale's illness reveals his inner turmoil. The outward man reflects the condition of the heart; an observation thought to be inspired by the deterioration of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

, whom Hawthorne "much admired".

Although Pearl is a complex character, her primary function within the novel is as a symbol. Pearl herself is the embodiment of the scarlet letter, and Hester rightly clothes her in a beautiful dress of scarlet, embroidered with gold thread, just like the scarlet letter upon Hester's bosom. Parallels can be drawn between Pearl and the character Beatrice in Rappaccini's Daughter
Rappaccini's Daughter
"Rappaccini's Daughter" is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1844 concerning a medical researcher in medieval Padua. It was published in the collection Mosses from an Old Manse.-Plot summary:...

. Beatrice is nourished upon poisonous plants, until she herself becomes poisonous. Pearl, in the mysterious prenatal world, imbibes the poison of her parents' guilt.

Past and present


The clash of past and present is explored in various ways. For example, the character of the old General, whose heroic qualities include a distinguished name, perseverance, integrity, compassion, and moral inner strength, is said to be "the soul and spirit of New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 hardihood". Sometimes he presides over the Custom House run by corrupt public servants, who skip work to sleep, allow or overlook smuggling, and are supervised by an inspector with "no power of thought, nor depth of feeling, no troublesome sensibilities", who is honest enough but without a spiritual compass.

Hawthorne himself had ambivalent feelings about the role of his ancestors in his life. In his autobiographical sketch, Hawthorne described his ancestors as "dim and dusky", "grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steel crowned", "bitter persecutors" whose "better deeds" would be diminished by their bad ones. There can be little doubt of Hawthorne's disdain for the stern morality and rigidity of the Puritans, and he imagined his predecessors' disdainful view of him: unsuccessful in their eyes, worthless and disgraceful. "A writer of story books!" But even as he disagrees with his ancestors' viewpoint, he also feels an instinctual connection to them and, more importantly, a "sense of place" in Salem. Their blood remains in his veins, but their intolerance and lack of humanity becomes the subject of his novel.

Publication history



It was long thought that Hawthorne originally planned The Scarlet Letter to be a shorter novelette
Novelette
A novelette is a piece of short prose fiction. The distinction between a novelette and other literary forms is usually based upon word count, with a novelette being longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella...

 which was part of a collection to be named Old Time Legends and that his publisher, James Thomas Fields
James Thomas Fields
James Thomas Fields was an American publisher, editor, and poet.-Early life and family:He was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on December 31, 1817 and named James Field; the family later added the "s". His father was a sea captain and died before Fields was three...

, convinced him to expand the work to a full-length novel. This is not true: Fields persuaded Hawthorne to publish The Scarlet Letter alone (along with the earlier-completed "Custom House" essay) but he had nothing to do with the length of the story. Hawthorne's wife Sophia later challenged Fields' claims a little inexactly: "he has made the absurd boast that he was the sole cause of the Scarlet Letter being published!" She noted that her husband's friend Edwin Percy Whipple
Edwin Percy Whipple
Edwin Percy Whipple was an American essayist and critic.-Biography:He was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1819. For a time, he was the main literary critic for Philadelphia-based Graham's Magazine. Later, in 1848, he became the Boston correspondent to The Literary World under Evert Augustus...

, a critic, approached Fields to consider its publication. The manuscript was written at the Peter Edgerley House in Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,407 at the 2000 census. It and Lawrence are the county seats of Essex County...

, still standing as a private residence at 14 Mall Street. It was the last Salem home where the Hawthorne family lived.

The Scarlet Letter was published as a novel in the spring of 1850 by Ticknor & Fields, beginning Hawthorne's most lucrative period. When he delivered the final pages to Fields in February 1850, Hawthorne said that "some portions of the book are powerfully written" but doubted it would be popular. In fact, the book was an instant best-seller though, over fourteen years, it brought its author only $1,500. Its initial publication brought wide protest from natives of Salem, who did not approve of how Hawthorne had depicted them in his introduction "The Custom-House". A 2,500-copy second edition of The Scarlet Letter included a preface by Hawthorne dated March 30, 1850, that stated he had decided to reprint his introduction "without the change of a word... The only remarkable features of the sketch are its frank and genuine good-humor... As to enmity, or ill-feeling of any kind, personal or political, he utterly disclaims such motives".

The Scarlet Letter was also one of the first mass-produced books in America. Into the mid-nineteenth century, bookbinders of home-grown literature typically hand-made their books and sold them in small quantities. The first mechanized printing of The Scarlet Letter, 2,500 volumes, sold out within ten days, and was widely read and discussed to an extent not much experienced in the young country up until that time. Copies of the first edition are often sought by collectors as rare books, and may fetch up to around $18,000 USD
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

.

Critical response


On its publication, critic Evert Augustus Duyckinck
Evert Augustus Duyckinck
Evert Augustus Duyckinck was an American publisher and biographer. He was associated with the literary side of the Young America movement in New York.-Life and work:...

, a friend of Hawthorne's, said he preferred the author's Washington Irving
Washington Irving
Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works...

-like tales. Another friend, critic Edwin Percy Whipple
Edwin Percy Whipple
Edwin Percy Whipple was an American essayist and critic.-Biography:He was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1819. For a time, he was the main literary critic for Philadelphia-based Graham's Magazine. Later, in 1848, he became the Boston correspondent to The Literary World under Evert Augustus...

, objected to the novel's "morbid intensity" with dense psychological details, writing that the book "is therefore apt to become, like Hawthorne, too painfully anatomical in his exhibition of them". Most literary critics praised the book but religious leaders took issue with the novel's subject matter. Orestes Brownson
Orestes Brownson
Orestes Augustus Brownson was a New England intellectual and activist, preacher, labor organizer, and noted Catholic convert and writer...

 complained that Hawthorne did not understand Christianity, confession, and remorse. A review in The Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register
The Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register
The Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register was an Episcopal American journal publishing on theological and religious matters from 1848 until 1891. The journal was founded by Nathaniel Smith Richardson. It was initially published in New Haven and became one of the leading publications in the...

concluded the author "perpetrates bad morals."

On the other hand, 20th century writer D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...

 said that there could be not be a more perfect work of the American imagination than The Scarlet Letter. Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

 once said of the novel, "It is beautiful, admirable, extraordinary; it has in the highest degree that merit which I have spoken of as the mark of Hawthorne's best things--an indefinable purity and lightness of conception...One can often return to it; it supports familiarity and has the inexhaustible charm and mystery of great works of art."

The book's immediate and lasting success are due to the way it addresses spiritual and moral issues from a uniquely American standpoint. In 1850, adultery was an extremely risqué subject, but because Hawthorne had the support of the New England literary establishment, it passed easily into the realm of appropriate reading. It has been said that this work represents the height of Hawthorne's literary genius, dense with terse descriptions. It remains relevant for its philosophical and psychological depth, and continues to be read as a classic tale on a universal theme.

Allusions


The following are historical and Biblical references that appear in The Scarlet Letter.
  • Anne Hutchinson
    Anne Hutchinson
    Anne Hutchinson was one of the most prominent women in colonial America, noted for her strong religious convictions, and for her stand against the staunch religious orthodoxy of 17th century Massachusetts...

    , mentioned in Chapter 1, The Prison Door, was a religious dissenter (1591–1643). In the 1630s she was excommunicated by the Puritans and exiled from Boston
    Boston
    Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

     and moved to Rhode Island
    Rhode Island
    The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

    .
  • Ann Hibbins
    Ann Hibbins
    Ann Hibbins was executed for witchcraft in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 19, 1656. Her execution was the third for witchcraft in Boston and predated the Salem Witch Trials. Hibbins was later fictionalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. A wealthy widow, Hibbins was reputed to be...

    , who historically was executed for witchcraft in Boston in 1656, is depicted in The Scarlet Letter as a witch who tries to tempt Prynne to the practice of witchcraft.
  • Richard Bellingham
    Richard Bellingham
    Richard Bellingham was a colonial magistrate, lawyer, and several-time governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the last surviving signatory of the colonial charter at his death...

    , who historically was the governor of Massachusetts and deputy governor at the time of Hibbins's execution, was depicted in The Scarlet Letter as the brother of Ann Hibbins.
  • Martin Luther
    Martin Luther
    Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

     (1483–1545) was a leader of the Protestant Reformation
    Protestant Reformation
    The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

     in Germany.
  • Sir Thomas Overbury
    Thomas Overbury
    Sir Thomas Overbury was an English poet and essayist, and the victim of one of the most sensational crimes in English history...

     and Dr. Forman were the subjects of an adultery scandal in 1615 in England. Dr. Forman was charged with trying to poison his adulterous wife and her lover. Overbury was a friend of the lover and was perhaps poisoned.
  • John Winthrop
    John Winthrop
    John Winthrop was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer, and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of...

     (1588–1649), first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
    Massachusetts Bay Colony
    The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

    .
  • King's Chapel Burying Ground
    King's Chapel Burying Ground
    King's Chapel Burying Ground is a historic cemetery at King's Chapel on Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the oldest cemetery in the city and is a site on the Freedom Trail....

    , mentioned in the final paragraph, exists; the Elizabeth Pain
    Elizabeth Pain
    Elizabeth Pain was a settler in colonial Boston whose gravestone some writers and popular tradition claim was the inspiration for the grave of character Hester Prynne in the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne....

     gravestone is traditionally considered an inspiration for the protagonists' grave.
  • Hester Prynne
    Hester Prynne
    Hester Prynne, the young protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, is a woman condemned by her Puritan neighbors. The character has been called "among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature."...

     was loosely based on Hawthorne's wife, Sofia Peabody.
  • The story of King David and Bathsheba is depicted in the tapestry in Mr. Dimmesdale's room (chapter 9). (See II Samuel 11-12 for the Biblical story.)

In popular culture



The Scarlet Letter has been adapted to numerous films, plays and operas and remains frequently referenced in modern popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

.

See also


  • Colonial history of the United States
  • Boston in fiction
    Boston in fiction
    This articles lists various works of fiction that take place in Boston, Massachusetts:-Videogames:*The Scout, a fictional character in the videogame called Team Fortress 2 is known to be from Boston....

  • Illegitimacy in fiction
    Illegitimacy in fiction
    This is a list of fictional stories in which illegitimacy features as an important plot element. Passing mentions are omitted from this article. Many of these stories deal with the social pain and exclusion felt by illegitimate "natural children"....


External links