3The Scarlet Letter: Introduction What happens when a private sinbecomes a public crime?
4The Scarlet Letter: Introduction In Puritan New England a young woman named Hester Prynne gives birth to a baby girl.
5The Scarlet Letter: Introduction Hester’s elderly husband has been missing for years.Everyone knows he can’t be the father.
6The Scarlet Letter: Introduction The town punishes Hester harshly for her adultery.First, they imprison her.Then, they condemn her to wear a scarlet letter A for the rest of her life.
7The Scarlet Letter: Introduction The townspeople treat Hester as an outcast.
8The Scarlet Letter: Introduction What her neighbors don’t know is the identity of the baby’s father.Hester refuses to tell.
9The Scarlet Letter: Introduction Her lover, whoever he is, seems to escape punishment.Or does he?
10The Scarlet Letter: Introduction Perhaps hidden sufferingis even worse than public shame.
11The Scarlet Letter: Background Persecuted in England, the Puritans came to North America to form their own communities.
12The Scarlet Letter: Background Life in the Colonies was harsh,but it gave the Puritans the opportunity to form a society based on their religious ideals.
13The Scarlet Letter: Background The setting of The Scarlet Letter is Boston in the 1640s.Boston had recently been founded by about one thousand English Puritans, led by John Winthrop.
14The Scarlet Letter: Background Puritans sought the freedom to live by their beliefs.However, the Puritan leaders did not tolerate religious beliefs that differed from their own.
15The Scarlet Letter: Background As for personal freedom…every member of the community was held to strict standards of behavior.
16The Scarlet Letter: Background In a Puritan community such as Hester’s, no aspect of life was truly private.People kept a close watch on their neighbors.
17The Scarlet Letter: Background Those considered sinners were publicly—and harshly—punished, as an example to others.
18The Scarlet Letter: Background The Puritans believed that all things are controlled beforehand by the will of God. This doctrine is called predestination.No one could know for certain if they were destined to receive salvation.However, a good Puritan still had to live as pure and righteous a life as possible—and to watch for signs of sinfulness in others.
19The Scarlet Letter: Discussion Starters Hester goes to jail for an action that, in our society, usually would remain private.What kinds of wrongdoing do you think should be punished publicly?What kinds should remain private for the people involved?
20The Scarlet Letter: Discussion Starters Motivated by love and loyalty, Hester keeps a painful secret.What kinds of secrets should you keep?When might it be better to reveal a friend’s secret, even though that person will be angry with you?