The Scarlet Letter Roman (1850) In the introductory essay to the novel, it is told about the author’s hometown – Salem, about his ancestors – Puritan fanatics, about working in the Seilem customs and about the people he had to face there.
“Neither the front door nor the back door of customs leads to paradise,” and service in this institution does not contribute to the flowering of good inclinations in people. Once, rummaging through papers heaped in a huge room on the third floor of the customs house, the author found a manuscript of a certain Jonathan Pugh, who had died eighty years ago. It turned out to be the biography of Esther Prien, who lived at the end of the 17th century. A red flap was kept together with the papers, upon careful examination, the letter “A” was amazingly embroidered with colored threads, and when the author put it to his chest, he thought he felt a burn. Dismissed after the Whig victory from work, the author returned to literary studies, and here Mr. Pugh’s work was very useful to him.
So, from Boston prison comes Esther Prien with a baby in her arms. She is wearing a beautiful dress that she sewed for herself in prison, on her chest is a scarlet embroidery in the form of the letter “A” – the first letter of the word Adulteress (adulteress). All around condemn the behavior of Esther and her defiant outfit. She is led to the market square to the platform, where she will have to stand up to one in the afternoon under the hostile views of the crowd – such a punishment was passed by the court for her sin and refusal to name the father of her newborn daughter.
Standing at the pillory, Esther recalls her past life, childhood in old England, a middle-aged, hunched scientist with whom she connected her fate. Looking around the crowd, she notices a man in the back rows, and he immediately takes possession of her thoughts. This man, like her husband, is not young, he has the penetrating gaze of a researcher and the bent back of a tireless worker. He asks others about who she is. They are surprised that he did not hear anything about her. But the man explains that he is an alien, spent a long time in slavery of the Gentiles, and now finally some Indian brought him to Boston to get a ransom. He is told that Esther Prien is the wife of an English scientist who decided to move to New England. He sent his wife forward, and he lingered in Europe. During her two years in Boston, Esther did not receive any news from him and decided that he was probably dead. The court took into account the extenuating circumstance and did not condemn the fallen woman to death, but merely sentenced him to stand for three hours on the platform at the shameful pillar and carry the sign of dishonor on his chest for the rest of his life. Everyone is outraged that she did not name the accomplice of sin. The strange Boston priest John Wilson convinces Esther to reveal the name of the seducer, followed by a young pastor Dimsdale, whose parishioner she was, speaking to her in a broken voice from excitement. But the young woman is stubbornly silent, holding her baby tightly to her chest.
When Esther returns to prison, the same stranger whom she saw in the square comes to her.
In fact, this is her husband, a doctor, he now calls himself Roger Chill-lingworth.
First, he calms the crying child, then gives the medicine Esther.
She is afraid that he will poison her, but the doctor promises not to revenge either the young woman or the baby. It was too presumptuous of him to marry a young beautiful girl and wait for a reciprocal feeling from her. Esther was always honest with him and did not pretend that she loved him. They both inflicted harm upon each other and are now even. Chillingworth makes her swear that she will not reveal to anyone his real name and her relationship with him. Let everyone believe that her husband is dead. He decides, by all means, to find out who Esther sinned with and revenge her lover.
After leaving prison, Esther settles in an abandoned house on the outskirts of Boston and makes a living as a needlework.
She is such a skilled embroiderer that she has no end to customers. Her daughter Pearl grows up beautiful, but has an ardent, changeable disposition, so Esther is not easy with her. Pearl does not want to obey any rules, no laws. The scarlet letter on her mother’s chest forever engraved in her memory.
The seal of rejection lies with the girl: she is not like other children, she does not play with them. Noticing the girl’s strangeness and desperate to find out who her father is, some townspeople consider the baby a diabolical offspring. Esther never breaks up with her daughter and takes her with her everywhere. Once they come to the governor to give back a pair of ceremonial embroidered gloves ordered by him. The governor is not at home, and they are waiting for him in the garden. The governor returns with the priests Wilson and Dimsdale.
On the way, they talked about Pearl being a child of sin, and therefore she should have been taken from her mother and transferred to other hands. When they report this to Esther, she never agrees to give her daughter up. Pastor Wilson decides to find out if Esther is raising her in a Christian spirit. Pearl, who knows even more than what is supposed to be at her age, stubbornly and answers the question of who created her, replies that her mother found her in a rose bush at the door of the prison. Pious gentlemen are horrified: the girl is already three years old, and she does not know about God.
Knowledge of medicine and piety have earned the respect of the people of Boston for Chillingworth. Soon after his arrival, he elected the Rev. Dimsdale as his spiritual father. All the parishioners greatly respected the young theologian and were concerned about his health, which has deteriorated sharply in recent years. People saw the finger of Providence on their arrival at their skilled doctor and insisted that Mr. Dimsdale turn to him for help.
As a result, the young priest and the old doctor made friends, and then even settled together. Chillingworth, who is stubbornly trying to discover Esther’s secret, is increasingly falling under the power of a single feeling – revenge. Feeling the ardent nature in the young priest, he wants to penetrate into the hidden depths of his soul and for this does not stop at nothing.
Chillingworth constantly provokes Dimsdale to tell him about unrepentant sinners. He claims that the cause of Dimsdale’s bodily illness is a mental wound, and persuades the priest to reveal to him, the doctor, the cause of his suffering. Dimsdale exclaims: “Who are you to stand between the sufferer and the Lord?” But once a young priest falls asleep firmly in the armchair during the day and does not wake up even when Chillingworth enters the room.
The old man approaches him, puts his hand on the patient’s chest, unfastens clothes that Dimsdale never took off in the presence of a doctor. Chillingworth triumphs – “this is how Satan behaves when he is convinced that a precious human soul is lost for heaven and won for hell.”
One night, Dimsdale walks to the market square and stands at the pillory. At dawn pass by Esther Prien and Pearl. The priest calls to them, they rise to the platform and stand next to him. The dark sky suddenly lights up – most likely it was a meteor.
And then they notice not far from the platform of Chillingworth, who is inseparably looking at them. Dimsdale tells Esther that he feels inexpressible horror before this man, but Esther, bound by an oath, does not reveal to him the secrets of Chillingworth.
Years go by. Pearl is seven years old. The perfect behavior of Esther and her disinterested help to the afflicted leads to the fact that the inhabitants of the town begin to treat her with a kind of respect. Even the scarlet letter from now on seems to them a symbol of not sin, but of inner strength.
Esther decides to discover Dimsdale that Chillingworth is her husband. She is looking for a meeting with the priest. Finally, he accidentally meets him in the forest. Dimsdale tells her how he suffers from the fact that everyone considers him to be pure and immaculate, while he tarnished himself with unrighteous behavior. He is surrounded by lies, emptiness. Esther reveals to him who is hiding under the name of Chillingworth. Dimsdale is furious: through Esther’s fault, he “laid bare his feeble criminal soul before the gaze of the one who secretly mocked her.” But he forgives Esther. Both of them believe that the sin of Chillingworth is even worse than their sin: he encroached on the shrine – on the human soul. They understand: Chillingworth is plotting new intrigues. Esther suggests Dimsdale to run and start a new life. Esther agrees with the skipper of the ship sailing to Bristol that he will take on board two adults and a child.
The ship should set sail in three days, and on the eve of Dimsdale is about to read a sermon. But he feels his mind clouding. Chillingworth offers him his help, Dimsdale refuses. People gather in the market square to hear the Dims Dale sermon. Esther meets a skipper of a Bristol vessel in the crowd, and he informs her that Chillingworth is also sailing with them. She sees on the other side of Chillingworth Square. He grins ominously at her. Dimsdale delivers a brilliant sermon. The festive procession begins. Dimsdale decides to repent to the people. Chillingworth understands that this will ease the torment of the sufferer, but now the victim will slip away from him, he begs not to bring shame on his holy dignity. Dimsdale asks Esther to help him climb the platform. He stands at the pillory and repents of his sin before the people. Then he tears off the priest’s clothes, exposing his chest. His gaze fades, he dies, praising the Almighty.
After Dimsdale’s death, life lost its meaning for Chillingworth. He immediately became decrepit, and not even a year had passed before he died. He bequeathed his entire great fortune to little Pearl. After the death of the old doctor, the woman and her daughter disappeared. And the story of Esther has become a legend.
After many years, Esther returned again, voluntarily putting on the emblem of shame.
She lives alone in her old house on the outskirts of Boston. Pearl, apparently, happily married, remembered her mother, wrote to her, sent gifts and wanted her to live with her. But Esther believed that atonement should be accomplished. When she died, she was buried next to Pastor Dimsdale, but their graves were separated from each other, as if after death the ashes of these two people should not have been mixed.