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IMPORTANT/KEY FACTS SUMMARY
Title: The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Date Published: 1850
Setting: Mid 1600's in Boston, Massachusetts
Genre: Historical Fiction; Romance
Meaning of the Title: Refers to the letter "A" that Hester is made to wear on the front of her dress as a public acknowledgment of her adultery.
Protagonist: Hester Prynne
Antagonist(s): The antagonist of a plot is something or someone that challenges the protagonist. The antagonist of this novel is the effort to hide the identity of the male adulterer, who is Pearl's father.
Mood: The prevalent mood is a dark and gloomy tragedy.
Point of View: Third-person omniscient.
Narrator: An anonymous customhouse surveyor telling of the past events. The narrator injects his own opinions and feelings into the story and he is sympathetic to Dimmesdale and Hester in his thoughts.
Tense: This story is generally written in the past tense as the narrator is addressing events that happened two hundred years prior. There are passages written in present tense when the narrator is speaking to the reader directly.
Conflict: Hester Prynne, in America without her husband bears a child by Rev. Authur Dimmesdale. She wears the public shame of adultery in the form of a letter "A", while Dimmesdale bears a private shame in that he caused it and no one knows. Her husband, Roger Chillingsworth arrives to find her public condemnation.
Rising Action: While Hester continues to live under the sin of adultery, Dimmesdale remains silent.
Climax: The second scaffold scene, when Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl, finally divulging his secret, but still in the darkness of night. Ironically, while standing there, Dimmesdale notices a large meteor in the sky that appears in the shape of the letter A. Chillingworth sees it as well, for he has been watching the three of them on the scaffold. Dimmesdale's sin is a secret no more; Chillingworth will have his revenge.
Outcome: The secret of Hester and Dimmesdale becomes public knowledge when the minister reveals his adultery and openly accepts Hester and Pearl, who have long suffered in silence. Also, at the end of the novel where we learn of Hester and Pearls ultimate outcome.
Themes: The consequences of sin, especially shame and guilt; Un-confessed sin destroys the soul; Human weakness and its resulting sorrow.
Symbols: The scarlet letter on Hester's dress; the scaffold; Pearl; the meteor that Dimmesdale sees; the rose bush that grows outside the prison door;wild un-wanted weeds growing between tire-tracks in the street; the rose bush on the other side of the street from the prison.