The Scarlett Letter pdf, Summary, Sparknotes, Themes, Characters, Movie

The Scarlet Letter pdf by Nathaniel Hawthorne: 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 the United States. It was popular when first published and is considered a classic work today. In this article, you will be able to download the epub version of the Scarlett letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne as well as do the following:

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The scarlett letter summary

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.

Its great burden is the weight of unacknowledged sin as seen in the remorse and cowardice and suffering of the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale. Contrasted with his concealed agony is the constant confession, conveyed by the letter, which is forced upon Hester, and has a double effect, — a healthful one, working beneficently, and making her helpful and benevolent, tolerant and thoughtful ; and an unhealthful one, which by the great emphasis placed on her transgression, the keeping her forever under its ban and isolating her from her fellows, prepares her to break away from the long repression and lapse again into sin when she plans her flight. Roger Chillingworth is an embodiment of subtle and refined revenge. The book though corresponding in its tone and burden to some of the shorter stories, had a more startling and dramatic character, and a strangeness, which at once took hold of a larger public than any of those had attracted. Though imperfectly comprehended, and even misunderstood in some quarters, it was seen to have a new and unique quality; and Hawthorne’s reputation became national.

The scarlett letter author – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne (July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was an American novelist, dark romantic, and short story writer. His works often focus on history, morality, and religion. He was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, from a family long associated with that town. Hawthorne entered Bowdoin College in 1821, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1824, and graduated in 1825. He published his first work in 1828, the novel Fanshawe; he later tried to suppress it, feeling that it was not equal to the standard of his later work. He published several short stories in periodicals, which he collected in 1837 as Twice-Told Tales. The following year, he became engaged to Sophia Peabody. He worked at the Boston Custom House and joined Brook Farm, a transcendentalist community, before marrying Peabody in 1842. The couple moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, later moving to Salem, the Berkshires, then to The Wayside in Concord. The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850, followed by a succession of other novels. A political appointment as consul took Hawthorne and family to Europe before their return to Concord in 1860. Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, and was survived by his wife and their three children. Much of Hawthorne’s writing centers on New England, many works featuring moral metaphors with an anti-Puritan inspiration. His fiction works are considered part of the Romantic movement and, more specifically, dark romanticism. His themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity. His published works include novels, short stories, and a biography of his college friend Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States.

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The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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1. The Prison-Door

  A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes. The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. In accordance with this rule, it may safely be assumed that the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house somewhere in the vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out the first burial-ground, on Isaac Johnson’s lot, and round about his grave, which subsequently became the nucleus of all the congregated sepulchres in the old churchyard of King’s Chapel. Certain it is, that, some fifteen or twenty years after the settlement of the town, the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front. The rust on the ponderous ironwork of its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New World. Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era. Before this ugly edifice, and between it and the wheel-track of the street, was a grass-plot, much overgrown with burdock, pigweed, apple-peru, and such unsightly vegetation, which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilized society, a prison. But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rosebush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him.

This rosebush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history; but whether it had merely survived out of the stern old wilderness, so long after the fall of the gigantic pines and oaks that originally overshadowed it⁠—or whether, as there is fair authority for believing, it had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Ann Hutchinson, as she entered the prison-door⁠—we shall not take upon us to determine. Finding it so directly on the threshold of our narrative, which is now about to issue from that inauspicious portal, we could hardly do otherwise than pluck one of its flowers, and present it to the reader. It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.

The scarlett letter themes


In The Scarlet Letter, nature stands in contrast to Puritanism. Where Puritanism is merciless and rigid, nature is forgiving and flexible. This contrast is made clear from the very first page, when the narrator contrasts the “black flower” of the prison that punishes sin with the red rose bush that he imagines forgives those sentenced to die. The theme of nature continues with the forest outside Boston, which is described as an “unchristianized, lawless region.” In the dark forest, wild, passionate, and persecuted people like HesterPearlMistress Hibbins, and the Indians can escape from the strict, repressive morality of Puritan society. The forest, which provides a measure of comfort and protection that exists nowhere in society, is also the only place where Hester can reunite with Dimmesdale. When Hester moves to the outskirts of Boston, the narrator says she would have fit in better in the forest. Hester’s choice to live on the border of society and nature represents her internal conflict: she can’t thrive entirely within the constraints of Puritanism, but because of her attachment to society and to Dimmesdale, she also can’t flee.


The Scarlet Letter presents a critical, even disdainful, view of Puritanism. The narrator depicts Puritan society as drab, confining, unforgiving, and narrow-minded that unfairly victimizes Hester. In the scene in which Hester is released from prison, the narrator describes the town police official as representing the “whole dismal severity of the Puritanical code of law,” which fused religion with law. In contrast, he describes Hester as a woman marked by “natural dignity…force of character…[and] free will.” It is precisely these natural strengths, which the narrator holds in high esteem, that Puritan society suppresses. In The Scarlet Letter, the Puritans appear as shallow hypocrites whose opinion of Hester and Pearl improves only when they become more of an asset to the community, most notably when Hester becomes a seamstress and Pearl inherits a fortune from Chillingworth.

The Occult

The first association most people have with the town of Salem, Massachusetts is the infamous “Salem Witch Trials.” Set in and around Boston, The Scarlet Letter also deals with the specter of witchcraft and the occult. But the novel treats witchcraft and the occult sympathetically. By associating Pearl with other outcasts like Mistress Hibbins, Hawthorne suggests that witches were created by, and victims of, the excessively strict Puritan society. Puritan society created the witches by being so intolerant that people became interested in witchcraft as a way of expressing natural human feelings that Puritanism repressed. Puritanism then viewed witches as a threat to its repressive society and therefore sentenced all witches, like Mistress Hibbins, to death.

Individuality and Conformity

As an adulterer, Hester has broken Puritan society’s harsh and strict rules. Puritan society demanded conformity because it considered any breach of that conformity a threat to its security and its religion. Hester doesn’t conform and she suffers the consequences: the townspeople punish, shun, and humiliate her. The town seeks to use Hester as an example to frighten any other would-be nonconformists from breaking the strict moral rules of Puritanism. Yet Hester’s unshakable faith in herself, her love for Dimmesdale, and her devotion to her daughter empower her to resist and transcend enforced Puritan conformity.

In general in The Scarlet Letter, the conflict between individuality and conformity is also a battle between appearance and reality. Because the Puritan government is so harsh, all Puritans are always concerned about looking like conformists to best fit in. This means that they hide the reality of their human flaws, frailties, and sins in order to avoid punishment. The result are secrets that are the embodiment of the disconnect between private individual reality and the need to maintain the appearance of public conformity. And though keeping secrets provide a short-term solution for the sinner to avoid punishment, the novel argues that repression of the individual behind a mask of secret-keeping conformity will ultimately warp and destroy a person’s soul.


The Puritans believed people were born sinners. Puritan preachers depicted each human life as suspended by a string over the fiery pit of hell. As a result, the Puritans maintained strict watch over themselves and their fellow townspeople, and sins such as adultery were punishable by death. Hester is spared execution only because the Puritans of Boston decided it would benefit the community to transform her into a “living sermon against sin.” But just as Hester turns the physical scarlet letter that she is forced to wear into a beautifully embroidered object, through the force of her spirit she transforms the letter’s symbolic meaning from shame to strength.

Hester’s transformation of the scarlet letter’s meaning raises one of The Scarlet Letter‘s most important questions: What does it mean to sin, and who are the novel’s real sinners? Hester’s defiant response to her punishment and her attempts to rekindle her romance with Dimmesdale and flee with him to Europe shows that she never considered her affair with Dimmesdale to be a sin. The narrator supports Hester’s innocence and instead points the finger at the novel’s two real sinners: Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. Chillingworth’s sin was tormenting Dimmesdale almost to the point of death; Dimmesdale’s was abandoning Hester to lead a lonely life without the man she loved.

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Kellyn Roth
4.0 out of 5 stars it is also a very good book, and I enjoyed it immensely
Reviewed in the United States on June 15, 2016
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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a classic … which is the main reason I chose to read it. But, besides being a classic, it is also a very good book, and I enjoyed it immensely, though the ending was disappointing in that it was a little vague as to the fates of some of the characters.
The book starts off with Hester Prynne, the main character, being led up on the scaffold for the public to gawk at. She has been charged with adultery, which is obviously true because she has a baby and her husband hasn’t been around in ages. However, she refuses to give up the name of her fellow adulterer. To her dress is pinned a scarlet letter, and she is released, but she’ll spend the rest of her life being shunned and stared at. The real beauty of The Scarlet Letter is the rich language never found in contemporary works. It gives you a real mental workout, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The characters are well-developed and interesting. The story is also interesting, though very sad. It shows the strictness of Puritan beliefs in the 1600s, it shows the difference between a person bearing shame and a person bearing secret guilt, it shows the price of sin and the gift of forgiveness. The Scarlet Letter is a true masterpiece.

Alexandra Stockwell
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Allegory, but Bad Story
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2020
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The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne is a good allegory, but as a story for enjoyment, it could be a lot better. I find the main characters Hester Prynne, Pearl Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arther Dimmesdale to be highly improbable and their behavior unlikely in real life. They all have roles in a story which is trying to teach readers a heavy-handed moral lesson.
For example, when Arther Dimmesdale starts to die from guilt, this is completely unrealistic. I can think of no reality where one could die from guilt. Instead, Hawthorne wants to tell readers that it is better to release their guilt instead of keeping it bottled up until it “kills them.”
Another time when Hawthorne was trying to teach us something was when Roger Chillingworth died once his means of revenge was taken from him. Roger Chillingworth made it his life’s goal to make Dimmesdale pay for having a child with his wife. Once Dimmesdale told everyone about his great sin and died, Chillingworth had no one to focus his rage upon. Chillingworth then died from the lack of someone to point his anger upon. No one would ever actually die from this, but it definitely proves a point.
Interestingly, even though this story is such a great allegory and such a bad story, some of the characters are based upon individuals who lived in Puritan times. Hester Prynne was based on someone from history: Mary Bailey Beadle. Other characters are also based on real people. That’s why I find it so interesting that The Scarlet Letter is so unrealistic even though the characters are from history.

E. A. Banks
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of long vanished times and attitudes
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 31, 2013
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I had no preconceptions of what this book would be about, which is probably a good thing because it is a good deal more entertaining than it might initially appear. The introductory section (The Custom House) is very tedious and utterly irrelevant and nearly put me off reading the book, so my advice would be to skip that part and go straight to Chapter 1.
Like most novels written in the 19th century, this is largely a morality tale, and the story itself will not tax most readers (although the ‘olde Englishe’ writing style may not appeal to everyone). Unusually though, I did not feel that the author made any judgement about the woman in this story, he just tells the tale and leaves it to the reader to make up their own mind. The plot is very easy to follow; a young woman, Hester Prynne, whose husband is absent, has conceived a child and refuses to name the father. The Puritan community in which she lives could have sentenced her to death for her adultery but instead her sentence is to stand at the scaffold for 3 hours with her infant so that the whole town may witness her shame and then henceforth she must always wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ as a mark of her sin. I guessed the identity of the child’s father while she was still standing on the scaffold and when a stranger appeared among the crowd come to witness Hester’s humiliation, I knew immediately who he was too. There are no surprises here, no twists or turns and the usual compliment of good-guys, bad-guys, big-wigs and snobs are all present. The bulk of the story details Hester’s life as she tries to raise her child on the edge of society, which given the attitudes of the time is something of a challenge for all concerned. All through the chapters, the author hints at the identity of her fellow sinner with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer, which is a bit annoying but somehow this does not spoil the book at all. The religious beliefs of the characters in the story are difficult to understand from a modern view-point but this did not detract from this gentle tale; in fact trying to understand this element of the story just made it all the more interesting to read. Written in the mid-19th century, but set 200 years earlier, the thing that most delighted me about this novel is the 17th century language in which it is told. Also, the prose is beautifully written and evokes a vivid picture of life in New England in the mid 17th century.

History Geek
4.0 out of 5 stars Product of its time
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 22, 2013
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Read this, and you’ll be reading a nineteenth-century work of fiction. Expect it to be wordy and verbose, possibly a little over-written. It’s a product of it’s times – find me a nineteenth-century novel that isn’t over-written! If you’re happy with the style, then you’ll enjoy The Scarlet Letter. It centres on Hester, an adulteress who has to rebuild her life while her presumed-dead husband seeks revenge against the husband of her illegitimate child. The introductory autobiography by Nathaniel Hawthorne doesn’t really add much, but the story itself is verging on a classic.

Ivy Risa
3.0 out of 5 stars not what i expected
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 20, 2014
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Firstly, the opening few chapters of this book are quite strange, and not related to the storyline particularly – I don’t know whether these bits are included in every version, but I certainly found them something to be ploughed through in order to get to the main story! The story is about Hester Prynne, a woman who is forced to make and wear a scarlet ‘A’ after she conceives and births a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. There are some salient points about organised religion (in this case Puritan legalism) and how Hester is hypocritically condemned by many people in the village. Hester is likeable. However I found one character to be very strange – Roger Chillingworth – his character seems to change a bit, though maybe this was just my understanding of it! And the child Pearl is also an odd one, but this is more obviously a literary device as Hawthorne uses her to symbolise Hester’s sin. The writing is at times quite difficult to get into because of the time in which this book was written, and this isn’t the most gripping book I’ve ever read, but it’s worth a read.

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