The Scarlet Letter Summary: A Plot Overview
The year is 1642 at Puritan town, Boston. There is a crowd that is gathering to witness the punishment to be meted on woman, Hester Prynne. She is guilty of the offense of adultery. As a result, she wears a scarlet A, which signals shame. Besides, she stands scaffold for 3 hours being publicly humiliated. She refuses to name the father of her child.
Hester notices a man in the crowd whom she recognizes as the long-lost husband. People assumed he got lost traveling at sea. Seeing that Hester is in shame, he makes inquiries of the offense the woman has committed. The response is that she is adulterous. To that, he claims that the father of the child also disserves equal humiliation and vows to find the man.
Reverend John and Arthur Dimmesdale try to inquire from Hester of the child’s father; she does not mention any name. Roger Chillingworth, a doctor, uses herbs calm down Hester and the baby girl, Pearl. Chillingworth (Hester’s husband) treats Pearl. He wants to know the father of the child as well. Hester does not reveal anything to him either. Chillingworth warns Hester not to reveal his real identity to which she agrees.
After being released from prison, she decides to settle in a cottage that he meager earning can afford. She leads a quiet life together with Pearl. However, Pearl’s unusual behavior troubles Hester. She does not like Pearl’s fascination with scarlet A. As Pearl grows, she is unruly. At one point, the church wants to take custody of Pearl. The news that Pearl might be taken away by the church does not augur well with Pearl. To prevent that from happening, she wants to have a candid discussion with Governor Bellingham on the issue. She finds the governor with Reverend Dimmesdale. Pearl refuses to give responses to the catechism question. The behavior persists even when she has the correct answer. This makes it hard for Hester to remain with her. Out of desperation, Hester begs Reverend Dimmesdale to convince the governor to grant Hester custody of Pearl
Reverend Dimmesdale is not in good health. The people of the town townspeople recommend that Chillingworth, the new doctor, should care for him. Since Chillingworth is close to Dimmesdale, he suspects that the Reverend may be sick because of a sin that he did not confess. Moreover, he feels that Dimmesdale may be the father of Pearl. One day, when the Reverend is asleep, Chillingworth notices scarlet A on Dimmesdale’s chest.
Gnawed by guilt conscience, Dimmesdale pays a visit to the place where Hester received her punishment years earlier. He notices Hester and Pearl while climbing. Dimmesdale wants them to be with him. He accepts that he feels guilty but finds it hard to confess publicly. Suddenly Dimmesdale notices a meteor forming in the sky. In his assessment, it forms a gigantic A. At the same time, and Pearl sees the shadowy image believed to belong to Roger Chillingworth. Dimmesdale’s health issues worry Hester. She wants Dimmesdale to allow her to tell her husband the truth. She warns Chillingworth not to be obsessed with revenge as it may be disastrous.
Hester and Dimmesdale meet later. During the meeting, she discloses Chillingworth’s quest to revenge. She tries to convince Dimmesdale to escape to Boston. The plan sounds good to the Reverend. Pearl does not acknowledge either Hester or Dimmesdale.
On his return to the town, Dimmesdale is no longer interested in the plan: He has transformed with the knowledge that he might soon die. Meanwhile, he receives information that Roger Chillingworth is part of the travelers in the ship they intend to go with to Bolton
On the day of the election, Dimmesdale delivers the most inspirational sermons. As he leaves with the procession, a stumble almost makes him fall. With Hester and Pearl among the people watching him, he confesses to being adulterous and dies in the arms of Hester. Some witnesses noticed the scarlet A on the Reverend’s chest. After that, Chillingworth also dies. Pearl inherits Chillingworth’s money and becomes wealthy. She goes to Europe with Hester, her mother.
Several years pass and Hester returns. She resumes putting on the scarlet letter. This time around, she gives hope to the other women in the society. Just by looking at her, the women find solace when undergoing some issues. Hester later dies and is buried within the locality. That is what you need to know from this story composed by Nathaniel Hawthorne.