Analysis of the Scarlet Letter
How it works
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, takes place in Boston, a puritan society. Hester Prynne, a young woman, arrived in Boston from overseas awaiting the arrival of her husband. While waiting she has an affair. Hester is sent to jail and once she serves her sentence, she is sent out with her child, Pearl, and a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest. The town wants to know who her secret lover is, but Hester will not tell. She will not tell even after she is publically shamed on a scaffold in front of the whole town.
A few years pass while Hester raises Pearl. This has been difficult for the two of them because town officials try to take Pearl away from Hester. Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister, helps to keep the girls together. He is successful with this. Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale slowly begins to weaken, physically and mentally. Due to this problem, he seeks out medical help from a so called medical professional, Robert Chillingworth. Chillingworth is Hester’s husband and only she knows this.
Eventually Chillingworth moves in with Dimmesdale to help him personally and all day long. The main reason Chillingworth does this is because he believes there is some type of connection between Dimmesdale and Hester. There is one specific night when Dimmesdale is resting, where Chillingworth sees something on his chest. It is left a mystery to the readers, but later is found to be a scarlet ‘A’. Chillingworth is now very certain that Dimmesdale is the man whom Hester had an affair with.
Dimmesdale is filled with so much guilt from his act that he is mentally unstable and Chillingworth does not help him. He tortures himself. One of the greater things he did was stand on the same scaffold that Hester and Pearl were on at the beginning of the book. During this time, Hester and Pearl were allowed back into the town because they have been doing kinds acts for others. While they were walking on night, they saw Dimmesdale and joined him on the scaffold. Hester knows that Chillingworth is making Dimmesdale’s conditions worse. She confronts Chillingworth and he refuses to do anything about it.
Hester knows she needs to tell Dimmesdale all that is happening, so he asks her to meet in the woods. There, they decide to leave Boston together with Pearl. A couple days before they are set to leave, Dimmesdale preaches his last sermon. Afterwards, the three publically stand on the scaffold. After a few seconds, Dimmesdale dies.
In the next year, Hester and Pearl leave Boston and no one knows what happened to them. Chillingworth also dies. Fast forward several years to when Hester returns to Boston. Pearl is now married. At the very end of the book, Hester dies and is buried next to Dimmesdale.