Who are the main characters of the novel?
Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, Pearl
What does the “A” on Hester’s scarlet letter represent?
What was the religion of the time setting?
Who is Mistress Hibbins?
She’s Governor Bellingham’s sister and is believed to be a witch
When and where is the novel set in?
Boston, MA in the 1630s
When was the novel published and by who?
1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne
What is Chillingworth’s identity?
Hester’s (ex) husband, sent Hester to America before him, when he arrived he was captured by Native Americans and learns their medicine ways, Dimmesdale’s (fake) physician, antagonist of the story
What is Dimmesdale’s identity?
Hester’s partner in crime; man she had her sin baby Pearl with, a reverend for the town’s church, emigrated from England to America, very intelligent
What is Hester’s identity?
A young woman who sinned with adultery when waiting for her husband’s arrival to America, had an illegitimate child with the town’s Reverend Dimmesdale, holds the scarlet letter
How does Mistress Hibbins die?
Executed for witchcraft
Who is the “Black Man”?
Who is Reverend Mr. John Wilson?
An older clergyman, believes in harsh punishments for sins although is easily persuaded by Dimmesdale’s eloquence
Who is Governor Bellingham?
Mistress Hibbin’s brother, unaware of her witchcraft in their mansion, also easily persuaded by Dimmesdale
Who is the narrator?
A man who works in the Custom-House two hundred years later and finds the manuscript about the Scarlet Letter, writes the story
Who is Pearl?
Hester’s daughter who everyone believes is a child of the devil. She is wise for her years and has a mischievous personality.
Custom House Summary:
An intro to the story’s narrator; not to be confused with Nathaniel Hawthorne himself though they both have similar life stories: worked as customs officer, lost job through political changes, and have Puritan ancestors. It explains how the narrator found and began to write “The Scarlet Letter” 200 years later.
Chapter 1, The Prison Door Summary:
Sets the scene and introduces the symbols later to appear
Chapter 2, The Marketplace Summary:
Hester is introduced when she is led onto the scaffold for her public shaming because of her adultery sin, is talked down by the matrons and townspeople, she remembers flashes of her life before her sin such as her parents and her husband.
Chapter 3, The Recognition Summary:
Hester recognizes her husband from overseas in the town crowd, then Rev. Dimmesdale, Rev. Wilson, and Gov. Bellingham are introduced and they try to get her to confess who her fellow sinner is but she refuses and is then led back into the prison.
Chapter 4, The Interview Summary:
Chillingworth is led into her prison cell to “help” her, she refuses his medicine initially but he assures her it isn’t poison since he intends on taking revenge on her child’s father. She still doesn’t reveal Dimmesdale’s identity so Chillingworth tells her to not reveal his either.
Chapter 5, Hester at Her Needle Summary:
After a few months she is let out of prison and free to go wherever, however she decides to stay in Boston in a cabin on the edge of the town. She supports herself and Pearl by doing amazing needlework, despite her popular skills, she is and still feels alienated from everyone, she also donates clothes to charities.
Chapter 6, Pearl Summary:
A chapter that goes into gr8 detail on Pearl. Hester believes Pearl is a demon bc she’s really odd and is different from the other children and said she isn’t a child of God, makes up imaginary friends and has a wicked personality.
Chapter 7, The Governor’s Hall Summary:
Pearl is supposed to be taken away from Hester for Hester’s sake, regardless of if she is a demon or not. On the way to the governor’s mansion, they are attacked by several kids, who Pearl eventually scares away. They wait for the men in the mansion and Pearl starts yelling for a rose in the bush outside until she is shushed when the men arrive inside.
Chapter 8, The Elf-Child and the Minister Summary:
The men arrive and Hester has to ask Dimmesdale to help her keep Pearl. He responds and tells the other men that God has sent Pearl as a blessing and curse and she should stay with Hester. They agree and she does, however, Chillingworth tries to go against it and eventually gets suspicious of Dimmesdale’s response and when Pearl comes to him willingly.
Chapter 9, The Leech Summary:
Chillingworth becomes known as the town’s physician and eventually is Dimmesdale’s personal doctor. They move in with each other since Dimmesdale is wasting away slowly and so that Chillingworth can treat him easier. However, after some time, the townspeople begin to notice that Chillingworth has changed into a devil person and they question his identity.
Chapter 10, The Leech and His Patient Summary:
Chillingworth is relentless on trying to figure out his patient’s cause of sickness. After prying and arguing with Dimmesdale, one night, he goes into Dimmesdale’s room and finds a secret Dimmesdale has been hiding for the past couple of years (his sin of adultery, he is so sick due to the guilt eating at him), from here on, Chillingworth starts to torture Dimmesdale more.
Chapter 11, The Interior of a Heart Summary:
Dimmesdale doesn’t realize that Chillingworth has been torturing him. His sermons are more powerful as his topic is about sin. He wants to confess but can’t bring himself to do so. He begins to punish himself by whipping himself, fasting, holding extended vigils where he stays awake all night meditating for his sin. At one point he decides to hold one on the scaffold where Hester once stood.
Chapter 12, The Minister’s Vigil Summary:
Dimmesdale screams on the scaffold but nobody finds him until Pearl and Hester arrive coming back from the late Gov. Winthrop’s deathbed. The three stand on the scaffold and hold hands, Pearl asks Dimmesdale to confess but he said not yet. A bright meteor flies by and forms the letter “A”, townspeople believe it was Angel for the Governor but it is for Arthur’s sin: adultery. Soon Chillingworth finds the three on the scaffold as he was too coming from the deathbed, and leads Dimmesdale home. The next day the church sexton finds the minister’s black glove but just assumes the devil was playing around.
Chapter 13, Another View of Hester Summary:
Hester has now changed to people and to herself. She is now a “bare and harsh outline” of her old self, people are starting to think her “A” stands for “Able” rather than “Adultery”. She starts to think about the harm she may he causing Dimmesdale by keeping Chillingworth’s secret from him.
Chapter 14, Hester and the Physician Summary:
Hester tries to get Chillingworth to stop tormenting Dimmesdale but he just gets more evil and evil. He is now the embodiment of evil. Hester begs him to become a human again bc Chillingworth noticed at one point how evil he’s gotten. She reveals that she will tell his secret to Dimmesdale.
Chapter 15, Hester and Pearl Summary:
Hester talks to Pearl about the Scarlet Letter and Pearl connects it to Dimmesdale’s constant habit of holding his chest. Hester ends up not talking to Pearl any further bc she realizes Pearl is too young to comprehend the significance, however, Pearl is relentless and bothers her mother about it throughout the next few days.
Chapter 16, A Forest Walk Summary:
Hester takes Pearl to the forest so Hester can talk to Dimmesdale. Pearl and her mother talk about the “Black Man” and Pearl wonders if the Minister has the same mark from the Black Man. Pearl runs away when she sees the minister coming.
Chapter 17, The Pastor and his Parishioner Summary:
Hester and Dimmesdale discuss their future lives after Hester reveals the secret to him. They plan on moving to Europe again by boat.
Chapter 18, A Flood of Sunshine Summary:
After their talk, Hester pulls out her ponytail and smiles after throwing the scarlet letter away. The forest brightens to show that Hester is now revived. She calls for Pearl to come meet Dimmesdale.
Chapter 19, The Child at the Brook-Side Summary:
Pearl refuses to come near her mother until Hester puts on the letter again. Once she does, Pearl comes but still doesn’t know Dimmesdale is her father. She asks if Dimmesdale will go hand in hand with the two of them back into the town but he said no so Pearl goes to wash the kiss he gave her on her forehead off.
Chapter 20, The Minister in a Maze Summary:
As the minister is walking home, he has become a changed man and is more confident and less sick suddenly. He arrives home and begins write a better sermon than his former to deliver on Election Day. He also tells Chillingworth that he no longer need medicine and Chillingworth is wary if he knows his identity or not.
Chapter 21, The New England Holiday Summary:
During the marketplace scene, Hester finds out that Chillingworth will also be boarding the boat trip with Dimmesdale.
Chapter 22, The Procession Summary:
As Dimmesdale arrives in front of everyone, he seems more lively and way different. Hester and Pearl don’t recognize him bc of this change. Pearl gives a message to Hester saying that Chillingworth said he’d take Dimmesdale on the boat with him so she only needs to deal for Pearl and herself. Mistress Hibbins also talks to Hester about the Black Man. Hester then goes to listen to Dimmesdale’s sermon but feels as if people are looking at her.
Chapter 23, The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter Summary:
After Dimmesdale’s sermon which the townspeople say was the best, he confesses on the scaffold and bc he does, he has escaped Chillingworth’s torture. He is now guilt free and dies.
Chapter 24, Conclusion:
After Dimmesdale’s death, people talk about what they think was on his chest when he revealed it, whether it was a letter A from Chillingworth’s medicines, his own self torture or his inner remorse. Within a year, Chillingworth dies and leaves a big inheritance to Pearl. Soon after, Pearl and Hester move back to England. The scarlet letter becomes a legend. But then Hester moves back to America while Pearl lives her own life in Europe and dies. She is buried close to Dimmesdale and shares the same tombstone.