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Chapter 1 Summary This opening chapter sets the scene for the novel in seventeenth- century Boston. The dark and gloomy prison sets the tone of the entire.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 1 Summary This opening chapter sets the scene for the novel in seventeenth- century Boston. The dark and gloomy prison sets the tone of the entire."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 1 Summary This opening chapter sets the scene for the novel in seventeenth- century Boston. The dark and gloomy prison sets the tone of the entire story and foreshadows the social and psychological situations of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. The one bright spot in this description is a single rose bush said to spring from the footsteps of Anne Hutchinson, a famous Puritan woman who questions the authority of the male-dominated Puritan church. The rose connects Hester Prynne to Anne Hutchinson. Hester lives in truth, pride, and honor, openly confessing her sin. Like a “martyr,” she suffers in silence and refuses to identify her partner in sin.

2 Chapter 2 Summary This chapter gives the reader a better understanding of two of the main characters, Hester and Pearl. Hester is sensitive but strong-willed. At three months old, Pearl, Hester’s daughter, already has an unnatural interest in the scarlet “A.” This chapter reveals some of Hester’s background—her life before she arrived in Boston.

3 Chapter 3 Summary In this chapter, the other two main characters of the novel appear. Both Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale are in the crowd. From her obvious fear of him, it is clear that Hester knows Chillingworth, the deformed man in the crowd. In contrast to Roger Chillingworth is the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale who is truly grieved over Hester’s shame. Guilt is already making Dimmesdale grow weak. It requires the encouragement of a senior minister for Dimmesdale to appeal to Hester to reveal the identity of her partner. The most important aspect of this chapter is to establish a major motif of the novel—the three times that all four of these characters meet at or on the scaffold.

4 Chapter 4 Summary Hester and Chillingworth confront one another for the first time in Boston. Hester distrusts Chillingworth, as shown in her fear that he will poison Pearl. Surprisingly, Chillingworth does not seek revenge on his wife; instead, he focuses on Hester’s lover. When Hester refuses to reveal the identity of Pearl’s father, Chillingworth vows to find out on his own.

5 Chapter 5 Summary This chapter concentrates on Hester’s alienation and intense suffering, partially self-inflicted, but mostly imposed by a society that spurns her. Hester lives a friendless life, with her child as her only real companion. Importantly, she also forgives her lover for hiding his sin. She understands his choice and the pain it must cause him.

6 Chapter 6 Summary The main purpose of this chapter is to describe Pearl and to establish her symbolic significance. Pearl’s is a personality of contrasts: innocent beauty and charm vs. a rebellious nature, uncanny insightfulness vs. wild-child behavior, tenderness vs. aggressiveness. Pearl’s name is also significant. She is a jewel, her mother’s “only treasure,” purchased at the highest price this society could set. Pearl is a constant reminder of sin and a living form of the scarlet letter.

7 Chapter 7 Summary Mostly this chapter serves to reinforce the love Hester has for Pearl. Hester’s horrified reaction upon learning about discussion of taking Pearl away from her and her trip to the governor for aid firmly establish this love.

8 Chapter 8 Summary For the first time, all of the major characters of the novel come together in close contact. Pearl’s scarlet dress concerns the governor and the ministers. Because Pearl seems not to know her catechism, though she has been religiously taught by her mother, Governor Bellingham decides that Pearl should be taken away from Hester and taken to live with a guardian who will “properly” raise her. In desperation, Hester appeals to Dimmesdale for help. This action cements Chillingworth’s conviction that he has found Hester’s lover.

9 Chapter 9 Summary Chillingworth’s actions demonstrate his subtlety, his conniving, and his delight in Dimmesdale’s pain. Chillingworth at first convinces the parishioners that he should care for the ailing minister; then, Hawthorne shows how Chillingworth convinces Dimmesdale that they should live under the same roof so he can constantly care for him. Because Dimmesdale does not need to have his body healed, but his soul, keeping Dimmesdale alive actually only adds to his torment. By keeping his sin hidden and unconfessed, Dimmesdale lets his conscience eat away his being; he suffers even more greatly than Hester, who has been forced to confess her sin in public.

10 Chapter 10 Summary This chapter presents Chillingworth torturing Dimmesdale and shows Dimmesdale’s self- inflicted suffering over his silence, even to the point of nighttime flagellation. Hawthorne does not say for certain that Dimmesdale is Pearl’s father, nor does he reveal what Chillingworth finds when he looks at Dimmesdale’s chest. One of the novel’s themes is concealment and revelation.

11 Chapter 11 Summary This chapter focuses on Dimmesdale’s intense agony as he wastes away from his guilt and inability to confess his sin.

12 Chapter 12 Summary This is the central chapter. It is full of irony and should be the most scrutinized in the novel. Finally, Hawthorne reveals the relationship between Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl. In his misery, Dimmesdale is mysteriously drawn to the scaffold where Hester had stood seven years ago. Dimmesdale confesses, but only in his imagination. As soon as Dimmesdale admits his cowardice to Pearl, a meteor appears in the sky to light the darkness with a scarlet “A.” Roger Chillingworth has been watching the three on the scaffold. The scaffold is the symbol of public acknowledgment of sin. The scarlet “A” takes on new meanings in the chapter. As it flashes across the sky, the “A” now becomes a sign of the minister’s guilt as well as Hester’s.

13 Chapter 13 Summary The author describes Hester’s life in the seven- year period between scaffold scenes. Readers sympathize with Hester as a single mother who lives among people unsympathetic to that way of life. Hester’s selfless aid to the poor and sick points out her goodness. Surprisingly, her reputation in Boston gradually changes. Some now see her letter “A” as standing for Able rather than Adultery.

14 Chapter 14 Summary In this chapter, Hawthorne again points out that Chillingworth is a wronged man. Hester again acknowledges her responsibility in that wrong and her part in causing the change in him from a kind and just person into an evil, vengeful demon. However, Chillingworth boasts about torturing Dimmesdale and the sadistic pleasure he gets from the minister’s suffering turn Hester’s thoughts against him. Readers sympathize with the harm done to Chillingworth, but may also find his response to it inappropriate and immoral.

15 Chapter 15 Summary This chapter underscores the complex and contradictory emotions Hester is now feeling. She decides that her husband greatly wronged her and holds him solely responsible for all the problems in her life. She admits to herself that, even though it is a sin, she hates him. Pearl’s creation and wearing of the green letter “A” symbolizes her innocent notions about her mother’s scarlet letter and further intensify Hawthorne’s association of Pearl with nature.

16 Chapter 16 Summary Pearl questions Hester about the Black Man (Satan). Hester admits that she has met the Black Man. The forest is also an important source of symbolism in this chapter. The darkness reflects Hester’s dreary, unhappy life. Both the men who are responsible for Hester’s temptation and sin are in the forest: the Black Man, her mythic tempter, and Dimmesdale, her physical tempter.

17 Chapter 17 Summary For the first time, Hawthorne brings the two lovers alone together for a period of time, revealing their feelings for one another. Hester promises Dimmesdale that he will never be alone, that she will be there for him. Dimmesdale makes no such corresponding promise, but instead simply accepts Hester’s aid. Their bond almost falls apart when Hester reveals that Dimmesdale’s confidant is really his worst enemy and her husband.

18 Chapter 18 Summary The forest frees Hester and Dimmesdale from the responsibility of the show that they put on in public. Nature imagery dominates the first part of the chapter. Their conversation reveals that these two “naturally” belong together. Hester discards the scarlet letter, the symbol of social judgment, and lets down her hair, and Dimmesdale begins to recover his vigor. Pearl behaves calmly and naturally in the forest. Pearl’s behavior changes when she finds Dimmesdale and her mother together.

19 Chapter 19 Summary Pearl’s role as a living symbol of her mother’s conscience comes out again when she loudly refuses to accept her mother unless the scarlet letter returns to her bosom. However, she does not accept Dimmesdale. When he kisses Pearl, she runs to the brook to wash the kiss away. That he is not willing to walk into town with them, even though Pearl asks him to do so, further demonstrates that Dimmesdale is still ashamed. We realize that Hester’s hope that the three of them will soon live together openly is only a dream.

20 Chapter 20 Summary Hawthorne notes that Dimmesdale is wholly unprepared to be freed from his burden, so that, when he thinks that he will escape, he walks with greater strength and has a new resolve in life. On his way home, he is tempted to curse, argue, and show lust—wicked impulses that he struggles to curb. More importantly, though, he sends Chillingworth away. He also tears up his Election Day sermon and stays up all night writing another.

21 Chapter 21 Summary Only the Puritans would have a festival without any excitement! The clothing of Hester and Pearl points to a contrast between dullness and excitement. Hester’s drab clothing appears solemn. Pearl’s very bright clothing symbolizes her impish excitement. The colorful Indians and pirates, outsiders to Boston, find this repressed carnival curious. This chapter constantly contrasts hope with dread. Eventually, the dread wins out. Chillingworth’s discovery of the plans made by Hester and Dimmesdale shows the lengths to which he will go to deny them happiness.

22 Chapter 22 Summary This chapter centers on the Election Day holiday. It is a day of change, and thus the appropriate setting for the story’s climax. Dimmesdale, by this time, has become almost a saint in the eyes of his parishioners. Hester, on the other hand, is once again reminded that she is considered an outcast sinner. Dimmesdale receives nothing but adoration as he delivers his Election Day sermon. In contrast, Hester stands in front of the scaffold with all of her sins upon her. Chillingworth’s evil intention of accompanying the lovers to Bristol and escorting Dimmesdale to the ship smashes all of Hester’s hopes. Hawthorne is preparing us for a tragic ending.

23 Chapter 23 Summary The climax arrives when Dimmesdale decides to stand on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl. In doing so, he finally relieves his conscience and succeeds in breaking Chillingworth’s hold over him. By exposing his sin immediately after achieving the zenith of glory in his Puritan congregation, he demonstrates the courage that he had long been lacking. He considers the public revelation of his guilt better than the cowardly escape from Boston that he had planned. He dies a peaceful man. Dimmesdale relies on Hester, asking for her help to ascend the scaffold and leaning on her to announce his sin. In doing so he rejects help from both Rev. Wilson (the Church) and Governor Bellingham (the State).

24 Chapter 23 Cont’d Pearl willingly goes to Dimmesdale and gives him a kiss, symbolizing that he has come to terms with his conscience. Chillingworth’s attempt at preventing Dimmesdale from climbing the scaffold reflects his truly evil nature. Chillingworth realizes that he has become so depraved that he will not survive without Dimmesdale to torture. This final scaffold scene unites all the novel’s disparate ideas. This chapter reveals Hawthorne’s beliefs in such concepts as sin, redemption, the role of the Church, the role of the State, the function of confession, and the effects of social judgment.

25 Chapter 24 Summary This denouement chapter brings the novel to a logical conclusion. Readers want to know what happens to Hester, Pearl, and Chillingworth after Dimmesdale’s death. However, Hawthorne gives mostly general and vague details, leaving the reader to decide what to believe. This is especially true about Pearl’s fate. Hester at last becomes what her life has been leading up to. She takes on the role of counselor and advisor, an alternate spiritual guide, especially to women who may be troubled (and many were) by the harsh patriarchal theocracy.


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