The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne explores the human conscience, repentance, and remorse in this tale of forbidden love and secret shame. Hester Prynne becomes an outcast in her Puritan community when she gives birth to an illegitimate child while her husband is away. She is forced to wear a scarlet “A” to symbolize her adultery and mark her transgression. Hawthorne juxtaposes Hester’s dignity and grace in her rejected position with the deceit and deep shame of Arthur Dimmesdale, whose guilt and hidden sin provide the driving tension for the novel. This book explores emotion, imagination, and the human spirit, and it remains an exemplar text for the Romantic period. In depicting a character with a very developed and important emotional landscape living in a society that does not understand sentiment, Hawthorne is able to challenge social restraints. His complex imagery, symbols, and use of allegory give this book a unique rhetorical style that has helped the story endure as an American classic.