• Year Published: 1850.
  • Pages: 264.

Summary of Chapters

The Scarlet Letter Chapters 1-5 Summary:

Hawthorne sets the location, noting the surroundings, which is a prison surrounded by overgrowth and, conversely, a vibrantly colored rosebush, an interesting juxtaposition against this harsh and dull foreground. Hester Prynne emerges from the cell, carrying a baby and wearing a beautifully designed scarlet “A” attached to her chest. The “A”, as we know, carries with it the burden of adultery, one of the recurring themes in The Scarlet Letter. She is lead through the crowd and up to the scaffolds for the gallows. She looks out and sees all of the angry and judgmental faces around her. While she is looking, she notices an awkward, rather homely man on the peripheral of the crowd, who we later know as Arthur Dimmsdale. An unknown to the community, he recognizes Hester and is taken aback. Someone tells him of Hester’s crime and the judgment passed down by the court, which is to stand on that scaffolding for 3 hours in front of the townspeople and any passersby, as well as to wear a scarlet “A” on her chest for the rest of her days. He learns that Hester will not reveal the name of the father of the baby.
The crowd jeers, the reverend, Reverend Mr. Wilson, delivers a long and fiery sermon, and then Hester is lead back into the prison. We learn that Hester’s husband, Chillingworth, wants only to know who the father of the child is. He swears that, when he meets the man, he will know. He swears Hester to secrecy with regards to the father’s identity. This act makes Hester feel quite nervous, as she feels as if she is making a deal with the devil, so to speak. Next we see Hester’s jail sentence end. She chooses to remain and make a home on the outskirts of town in a small house by the sea. She seeks out a life as a seamstress.

The Scarlet Letter Chapters 6-12 Summary:

Pearl, Hester’s daughter, grows up. She and Hester are constant companions. Soon, Hester learns that Pearl is to be taken away. Hester goes to Governor Bellingham’s house to beg that this doesn’t happen. Things don’t go very well and, only after Chillingworth persuades the governor and the reverend (present also in the scene), by noting that Pearl is a constant reminder of Hester’s sin, they are allowed to remain together.

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