CliffsNotes on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (Cliffsnotes Literature Guides)
Susan Van Kirk
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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.
of their path. His love of learning and intellectual pursuit attracts Dimmesdale. In the New World, men of learning were rare. Hawthorne says, “there was a fascination for the minister in the company of the man of science, in whom he recognized an intellectual cultivation of no moderate depth or scope; together with a range and freedom of ideas that he would have vainly looked for among the members of his own profession.” This love of wisdom is what will draw the two men together, thus
place and as long as they followed His words and did their work to glorify His ways, God would bless them, and they would prosper. Hawthorne, of course, presents the irony of this concept when he describes the prison as a building already worn when the colony is only fifteen years old. Hawthorne’s viewpoint of this society seems to be disclosed in several places in the novel but never more so than in the Governor’s house in Chapter 7 and during the New England holiday in Chapter 21. On
consequently, there was a close tie between Church and State. In The Scarlet Letter, those two branches of the government are represented by Mr. Roger Wilson (Church) and Governor Bellingham (State). The rules governing the Puritans came from the Bible, a source of spiritual and ethical standards. These rules were definite, and the penalties or punishments were public and severe. Hester’s turn on the scaffold and her scarlet letter were similar to those who were branded or forced to wear an M for
Romance Hawthorne is chiefly remembered as the creative genius who sought to define the romance. He contributed four major romances to the world’s literature: The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, The Marble Faun, and The Scarlet Letter. In each of these he sought, in the prefaces, to define what romance meant to him. In the Custom House preface of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne discusses part of his concept or definition of the romance novel. He explains that life seen through
and rejects the arm of the beadle, walking into the sunlight on her own. The most startling part of her appearance is the scarlet letter A on her dress. What is meant to be a badge of shame is elaborately decorated in threads of gold. It goes far beyond the standards of richness—sumptuary laws—decreed by the colony. Her extraordinary appearance defies the order of the governor and the ministers. The scarlet letter is “fantastically embroidered and illuminated” and takes “her out of the ordinary