|Publisher||Ticknor, Reed & Fields|
The Scarlet Letter: A Romance is a work of historical fiction by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850.Set in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony during the years 1642 to 1649, the novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and then struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Containing a number of religious and historic allusions, the book explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.
The Scarlet Letter was one of the first mass-produced books in America. It was popular when first publishedand is considered a classic work today. It inspired numerous film, television, and stage adaptations. Critics have described it as a masterwork, and novelist D. H. Lawrence called it a "perfect work of the American imagination".
In Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, a crowd gathers to witness the punishment of Hester Prynne, a young woman who has given birth to a baby of unknown parentage. Her sentence required her to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation, and to wear the scarlet "A" for the rest of her life. As Hester approaches the scaffold, many of the women in the crowd are angered by her beauty and quiet dignity. When demanded and cajoled to name the father of her child, Hester refuses.
As Hester looks out over the crowd, she notices a small, misshapen man and recognizes him as her long-lost husband, who has been presumed lost at sea. When the husband sees Hester's shame, he asks a man in the crowd about her and is told the story of his wife's adultery. He angrily exclaims that the child's father, the partner in the adulterous act, should also be punished and vows to find the man. He chooses a new name, Roger Chillingworth, to aid him in his plan.
The Reverend John Wilson and the minister of Hester's church, Arthur Dimmesdale, question her, but she refuses to name her lover. After she returns to her prison cell, the jailer brings in Chillingworth, now a physician, to calm Hester and her child with his roots and herbs. He and Hester have an open conversation regarding their marriage and the fact that they were both in the wrong. Her lover, however, is another matter and he demands to know who it is; Hester refuses to divulge such information. He accepts this, stating that he will find out anyway, and forces her to conceal that he is her husband. If she ever reveals him, he warns her, he will destroy the child's father. Hester agrees to Chillingworth's terms although she suspects she will regret it.
Following her release from prison, Hester settles in a cottage at the edge of town and earns a meager living with her needlework, which is of extraordinary quality. She lives a quiet, somber life with her daughter, Pearl, and performs acts of charity for the poor. She is troubled by her daughter's unusual fascination with the scarlet "A". The shunning of Hester also extends to Pearl, who has no playmates or friends except her mother. As she grows older, Pearl becomes capricious and unruly. Her conduct starts rumors, and, not surprisingly, the church members suggest Pearl be taken away from Hester.
Hester, hearing rumors that she may lose Pearl, goes to speak to Governor Bellingham. With him are ministers Wilson and Dimmesdale. Hester appeals to Dimmesdale in desperation, and the minister persuades the governor to let Pearl remain in Hester's care.
Because Dimmesdale's health has begun to fail, the townspeople are happy to have Chillingworth, the newly arrived physician, take up lodgings with their beloved minister. Being in such close contact with Dimmesdale, Chillingworth begins to suspect that the minister's illness is the result of some unconfessed guilt. He applies psychological pressure to the minister because he suspects Dimmesdale is Pearl's father. One evening, pulling the sleeping Dimmesdale's vestment aside, Chillingworth sees a symbol that represents his shame on the minister's pale chest.
Tormented by his guilty conscience, Dimmesdale goes to the square where Hester was punished years earlier. Climbing the scaffold in the dead of night, he admits his guilt but cannot find the courage to do so publicly in the light of day. Hester, shocked by Dimmesdale's deterioration, decides to obtain a release from her vow of silence to her husband.
Several days later, Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest and tells him of her husband and his desire for revenge. She convinces Dimmesdale to leave Boston in secret on a ship to Europe where they can start life anew. Inspired by this plan, the minister seems to gain new energy. On Election Day, Dimmesdale gives one of his most inspired sermons. But as the procession leaves the church, Dimmesdale climbs upon the scaffold and confesses his sin, dying in Hester's arms. Later, most witnesses swear that they saw a stigma in the form of a scarlet "A" upon his chest, although some deny this statement. Chillingworth, losing his will for revenge, dies shortly thereafter and leaves Pearl a substantial inheritance.
After several years, Hester returns to her cottage and resumes wearing the scarlet letter. When she dies, she is buried near the grave of Dimmesdale, and they share a simple slate tombstone engraved with an escutcheon described as: "On a field, sable, the letter A, gules" ("A red letter A written on a black background").
The major theme of The Scarlet Letter is shaming and social stigmatizing, both Hester's public humiliation and Dimmesdale's private shame and fear of exposure. Notably, their liaison is never spoken of, so the circumstances that led to Hester's pregnancy, and how their affair was kept secret never become part of the plot.
Elmer Kennedy-Andrews remarks that Hawthorne in "The Custom-house" sets the context for his story and "tells us about 'romance', which is his preferred generic term to describe The Scarlet Letter, as his subtitle for the book – 'A Romance' – would indicate." In this introduction, Hawthorne describes a space between materialism and "dreaminess" that he calls "a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbues itself with nature of the other". This combination of "dreaminess" and realism gave the author space to explore major themes.
The experience of Hester and Dimmesdale recalls the story of Adam and Eve 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 immoral. For Hester, the Scarlet Letter is a physical manifestation of her sin and reminder of her painful solitude. She contemplates casting it off to obtain her freedom from an oppressive society and a checkered past as well as the absence of God. Because the society excludes her, she considers the possibility that many of the traditions upheld by the Puritan culture are untrue and are not designed to bring her happiness.
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. [ citation needed ] 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 that he is saved.The narrative of the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is quite in keeping with the oldest and most fully authorized principles in Christian thought.
The rose bush's beauty forms a striking contrast to all that surrounds it; as later the beautifully embroidered scarlet "A" will be 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 kindly 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 inspired by the deterioration of Edgar Allan Poe, whom Hawthorne "much admired".
Another theme is the extreme legalism of the Puritans and how Hester chooses not to conform to their rules and beliefs. Hester was rejected by the villagers even though she spent her life doing what she could to help the sick and the poor. Because of the social shunning, she spent her life mostly in solitude and would not go to church.
As a result, she retreats into her own mind and her own thinking. Her thoughts begin to stretch and go beyond what would be considered by the Puritans as safe. She still sees her sin, but begins to look on it differently than the villagers ever have. She begins to believe that a person's earthly sins do not necessarily condemn them. She even goes so far as to tell Dimmesdale that their sin has been paid for by their daily penance and that their sin will not keep them from getting to heaven, although the Puritans believed that such a sin surely condemns.[ dubious ][ citation needed ]
But Hester had been alienated from the Puritan society, both in her physical life and spiritual life. When Dimmesdale dies, she knows she has to move on because she can no longer conform to the Puritans' strictness. Her thinking is free from puritan religious bounds and she has established her own different moral standards and beliefs.
It was long thought that Hawthorne originally planned The Scarlet Letter to be a shorter novelette, part of a collection named Old Time Legends, and that his publisher, James T. Fields, 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, a critic, approached Fields to consider its publication. The manuscript was written at the Peter Edgerley House in Salem, Massachusetts, 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 first published in the spring of 1850 by Ticknor & Fields, beginning Hawthorne's most lucrative period. ... As to enmity, or ill-feeling of any kind, personal or political, he utterly disclaims such motives".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 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
The Scarlet Letter was also one of the first mass-produced books in America. In 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.
On its publication, critic Evert Augustus Duyckinck, a friend of Hawthorne's, said he preferred the author's Washington Irving-like tales. Another friend, critic Edwin Percy Whipple, 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".English writer Mary Anne Evans writing as "George Eliot", called The Scarlet Letter, along with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1855 book-length poem The Song of Hiawatha , the "two most indigenous and masterly productions in American literature". Most literary critics praised the book but religious leaders took issue with the novel's subject matter. Orestes Brownson complained that Hawthorne did not understand Christianity, confession, and remorse. A review in The Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register concluded the author "perpetrates bad morals."
On the other hand, 20th-century writer D. H. Lawrence said that there could not be a more perfect work of the American imagination than The Scarlet Letter.Henry 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 following are historical and Biblical references that appear in The Scarlet Letter.
The following are symbols that are embedded in The Scarlet Letter:
The Scarlet Letter has inspired numerous film, television, and stage adaptations, and plot elements have influenced several novels, musical works, and screen productions.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist, dark romantic, and short story writer. His works often focus on history, morality, and religion.
"Young Goodman Brown" is a short story published in 1835 by American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story takes place in 17th-century Puritan New England, a common setting for Hawthorne's works, and addresses the Calvinist/Puritan belief that all of humanity exists in a state of depravity, but that God has destined some to unconditional election through unmerited grace. Hawthorne frequently focuses on the tensions within Puritan culture, yet steeps his stories in the Puritan sense of sin. In a symbolic fashion, the story follows Young Goodman Brown's journey into self-scrutiny, which results in his loss of virtue and belief.
Hester Prynne is the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter. She is portrayed as a woman condemned by her Puritan neighbors. The character has been called "among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature".
The Scarlet Letter is a 1995 American romantic drama film directed by Roland Joffé. "Freely" adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel of the same name, it stars Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. The film met with overwhelmingly negative reviews and bombed at the box office. It was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards, winning "Worst Remake or Sequel", and has garnered a legacy as one of the worst films ever made.
Roger Chillingworth is a fictional character and primary antagonist in the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He is an English scholar who moves to the New World after his wife, Hester Prynne.
Arthur Dimmesdale is a fictional character in the 1850 romance The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A Puritan minister, he has fathered an illegitimate child, Pearl, with Hester Prynne and considers himself unable to reveal his sin.
The Scarlet Letter is a 1973 German film directed by Wim Wenders. It is an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter.
Angel and Apostle is a novel written by Deborah Noyes and published in 2005. It is often viewed as a sequel to The Scarlet Letter, a novel by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, but it is more like a companion due to the overlap of events between the novels.
The Scarlet Letter is a 1979 miniseries based on the 1850 novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne: it aired on WGBH from March 3, 1979 to March 24, 1979. The series is four episodes long, 60 minutes each. Part 2 won the 1979 Emmy Award for Outstanding Video Tape Editing for a Limited Series or Special for film editors Ken Denisoff, Janet McFadden, and Tucker Wiard.
"Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent" is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne published in 1843 in the The United States Magazine and Democratic Review in New York.
Roger's Version is a 1986 novel by American writer John Updike.
The Scarlet Letter is a 1926 American drama film, based on the 1850 novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and directed by Victor Sjöström. Prints of the film survive in the MGM/United Artists film archives and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
The Scarlet Letter (1911) is a silent drama motion picture short starring King Baggot, Lucille Young, and William Robert Daly.
The Scarlet Letter is a 1934 American film directed by Robert G. Vignola and based on the 1850 novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Ann Hibbins was a woman executed for witchcraft in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 19, 1656. Her death by hanging was the third for witchcraft in Boston and predated the Salem witch trials of 1692. Hibbins was later fictionalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous novel The Scarlet Letter. A wealthy widow, Hibbins was the sister-in-law by marriage to Massachusetts governor Richard Bellingham. Her sentence was handed down by Governor John Endicott.
The following is a list of references to the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in popular culture.
The Scarlet Letter is a 1922 British silent drama film directed by Challis Sanderson and starring Sybil Thorndike, Tony Fraser and Dick Webb. It is an adaptation of the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The Scarlet Letter is a lost 1908 silent American short film, directed by Sidney Olcott. It was based on the 1850 novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The screenplay was written by Gene Gauntier, who also played the character Hester Prynne. The film was produced by Kalem Company.
Moi, Tituba, Sorcière…Noire de Salem (1986) is a French novel by Maryse Condé. It won the French Grand Prix award for women's literature.
The Scarlet Letter is a 2008 opera by Lori Laitman to a libretto by David Mason based on the 1850 novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The opera was given a professional premiere in 2016 by Opera Colorado.
it has in the highest degree that merit.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Scarlet Letter .|