The Scarlet Letter is about a woman named Hester Prynne
who lives in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1640s,
near the very beginning of the colonial period.
Sha has an adulterous affair and has a baby.
In the Colony makes her wear a scarlet letter A on her chest for adulteress
and treats her as an outcast.
She keeps the baby’s father a secret.
But his identity comes out at the end of the book.
The first chapter is called The Custom–House.
And it tells the story of how the author was working as the administrator of a custom house in Salem
when he found the embroidery letter A,
and some papers that tell Hester Prynne’s story.
When he got fired from his job
he found time to write The Scarlet Letter.
The first scene of the actual novel
has Hester coming out of the jail with a baby in her arms
and a scarlet letter A embroidered on her chest.
The baby is three months old.
Hester was in jail for adultery.
And since no one knows who the baby’s father was,
we can assume she was discovered and sentenced to jail time
when her pregnancy started to show.
The first thing Hester has to do is
stand on a scaffold where they keep a pillory
which is a device for locking people up in public.
They don’t lock her into the pillory,
but she has to stand on the platform for a long time
with everyone staring at her.
Eventually, she sees someone at the edge of the crowd.
This man is her husband.
He had sent her ahead of him to Massachusetts
while he stayed behind in Europe.
And when he tried to join her,
he encountered various mishaps
and wound up in prison by Native Americans
while she was having her affair and being in jail.
He wanders out of the forest
on exactly the day that she’s up in front of the pillory.
He doesn’t tell anyone who he is.
And he puts his finger to his lips
so Hester won’t reveal his identity.
The governor and the eldest clergyman
asked the young minister Reverend Dimmesdale
to speak to Hester about her sin.
Dimmesdale asks Hester to reveal the father of her baby
so he can confess and atone for his crimes with her.
We learned soon that Dimmesdale himself is the father.
But Hester refuses to reveal this secret to anyone.
Later, Hester is back in herself for the end of her stay in jail,
and her husband comes to see her, posing as a doctor.
He says he forgives her for cheating on him,
but he makes her promise not to reveal who he is.
And he swears he’ll find out who the father is.
From that point on,
he starts calling himself Roger Chillingworth.
Hester lives in an isolated little cottage with her baby.
She has to wear the scarlet letter all the time,
and she’s treated as an outcast.
She’s skilled at sewing though.
And she makes her living doing needlework.
She can make fancy lace garments for officials to wear in ceremonies,
though she spends a lot of her time making clothes for the poor.
The only thing she does extravagantly for herself
is make clothes for her daughter Pearl.
She made the embroidered scarlet letter that she wears,
and she makes Pearl look kind of like the scarlet letter too.
When Pearl’s about three and a half,
Hester hears that some people in the colony are saying
Pearl should be taken away
and given to foster parents who will raise her better than Hester.
So Hester takes Pearl to the governor’s mansion
to tell the governor not to do this.
她到的时候 牧师威尔逊 丁梅斯代尔和罗杰·奇林沃思
The Reverend Wilson, the Reverend Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth
are all with the governor when she gets there.
Reverend Wilson asks Pearl some religious questions
to see if Hester’s been raising her right.
And Pearl, who’s very wild,
acts like she doesn’t know what they’re talking about,
which makes the governor think Hester is a bad mom.
But Hester appeals to Dimmesdale to speak for her,
and Dimmesdale says that God gave Pearl to Hester to save her soul.
He points out that Pearl looks like the scarlet letter,
so Hester is clearly using Pearl to remember her sin and repent.
The governor is convinced
and Hester keeps Pearl.
Chillingworth builds a new identity for himself as a doctor.
He’s very well educated in European medicine
and the Native Americans taught him many cures as well.
The colony is happy to have a good doctor
since their stark clergymen the young Reverend Dimmesdale
is clearly sick and doesn’t seem like he’ll live a long time.
He always puts his hand over his heart like he’s in pain,
so the townspeople kind of push them together as doctor and patient.
And eventually, people persuade them to live together in the same house.
But over time,
some people start to see Chillingworth as a demonic influence on Dimmesdale,
which is right.
Since Chillingworth suspects that Dimmesdale is the father,
he thinks Dimmsdale’s guilt is what’s killing him
and he only wants to find out the secret
and torture Dimmesdale more.
Chillingworth constantly questions and prized into Dimmsdale’s life
to try to get Dimmesdale to reveal his secret.
Once, Pearl and Hester see them together,
and Pearl warns her mother not to get caught by black man like the minister has.
The black man is what the colonists called the devil.
One day, Chillingworth goes a little too far,
and says that Dimmesdale’s disease must actually be a spiritual problem or secret.
Dimmesdale tells him it’s none of his business.
He’ll confess to God.
When Dimmesdale goes to sleep,
Chillingworth opens Dimmesdale shirt
and sees something on his chest that tells him everything he needs to know.
Now Chillingworth can torture Dimmesdale at will,
even though Dimmesdale has no idea that Chillingworth knows the secret.
Chillingworth can make sure he’s always reminded of it.
Dimmesdale is consumed by guilt at the fact that he slept with Hester
and that no one knows it.
He gives the best sermons in the colony
because he understands sin so well and can empathize.
But the fact that everyone thinks he’s so holy makes his guilt worse.
He wants to confess to his congregation,
and he tells them he’s a sinner.
But they only like him more.
When he’s alone,
he whips himself and starves himself,
and he sees visions of his parents and Pearl and Hester.
Late, one night,
he goes out and stands on the pillory platform.
He shrieks, and he thinks people will come out and find him there and know his secret.
But no one does.
After a while,
various people who were at the former governors deathbed do come by.
Hester is one of them.
And she walks by with Pearl.
Dimmesdale invites them to come and hold hands with him on the pillory .
A meteor passes across the sky
and its light creates the outline of the letter A in the clouds.
In the light, Dimmesdale can see Chillingworth.
He asks Pearl who it is,
saying he’s terrified of that man.
Chillingworth comes and takes Dimmesdale home
saying he’s been sleepwalking.
By the time Pearl is seven,
Hester has earned a lot of respect in the town
because she spends most of her time helping people.
And she’s always there offering comfort when people are sick or dying.
The townspeople even start talking about taking off the letter,
but Hester is also used to being an outcast by now.
And she doesn’t really care about society’s ideas of right and wrong anymore,
which is the opposite of what the colonists wanted the letter to do.
When she sees how tormented Dimmesdale is,
and realizes that Chillingworth is the reason.
She goes to confront Chillingworth.
She finds Chillingworth at the beach
and tells him he’s turned into a fiend.
He admits that he’s made Dimmesdale suffer,
but he can’t stop himself.
Hester says that she’s going to tell Dimmesdale the truth,
and she points out that Chillingworth could forgive and forget everything.
Chillingworth says he can’t do that.
Hester is disgusted that she was ever married to Chillingworth
and she starts thinking about Dimmesdale all over again.
She hasn’t really repented for loving Dimmesdale.
She goes into the forest to meet Dimmesdale
as he’s returning from a trip.
And they speak for the first time in seven years.
He admits he’s completely miserable.
She tells him that she’s there for him and
she tells him the truth about Chillingworth.
He’s horrified and angry when he hears about this.
But she insists that he has to forgive her
and ultimately he does.
She urges him to leave the colony
and starts a fresh life somewhere else.
He says he doesn’t have the strength to do it alone.
But she says she’ll come with him and be his wife.
Dimmesdale decides that he will leave town with her.
And she takes off her scarlet letter and throws it away,
then lets her hair down.
They talk about pearl,
and Dimmesdale wonders if Pearl will accept him.
They call to Pearl,
but she won’t come across the brook until Hester puts back on the letter.
The minister kisses her on the forehead,
but she runs and washes it off in the stream.
She’s mad because he won’t acknowledge and public that he’s friends with them.
Dimmesdale comes back into town
having agreed to run away with Hester and Pearl
on a ship in a few days.
He’s feeling confused and kind of crazy.
Every time he sees someone,
he can barely restrain himself from saying or doing something evil.
Eventually he makes it home
and throws himself into writing his last big sermon, the Election Day sermon.
On the day the new governor is sworn in
when Dimmesdale has to give his big sermon.
Everyone in the colony has gathered together for a holiday.
Hester has made arrangements with the ship’s captain for them to leave,
but the ship’s captain finds her
and lets her know that Roger Chillingworth is coming with them.
Dimmesdale and all the officials of the colony process into the church,
and Hester has to stand outside listening to the sermon
as she worries about what the ship captain said,
and as all the people there standing gawk at her letter worse than ever.
The sermon is a huge hit,
the biggest sermon never given in New England.
Dimmesdale comes out and takes Hester and Pearl by the hand,
and leads them up onto the pillory platform with them.
Chillingworth tries to stop him, but can’t.
Dimmesdale said he should have stayed with them seven years before,
then he opens his shirt and reveals the scarlet letter on his chest.
No one knows how it got there.
It could be a sign from God or he might have scarred himself.
It’s a mystery.
Dimmesdale asks Pearl if she will kiss him now, and she does.
Hester asks that if they will be together in heaven, and he says no,
they need to repent for their sin.
Then he dies.
Afterword, Chillingworth dies
and leaves a huge inheritance to Pearl.
Hester and Pearl leave the colony for a while
and Pearl apparently marries someone rich in Europe.
But Hester eventually comes back to live in a cottage and where her scarlet letter again.
Hester is buried beside Dimmesdale but not too close beside him,
and they share a headstone with an A on it.
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