Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of proud New England seafarers. He lived in genteel poverty with his widowed mother and two young sisters in a house filled with Puritan ideals and family pride in a prosperous past. His boyhood was, in most respects, pleasant and normal. In 1825 he was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, and he returned to Salem determined to become a writer of short stories. For the next twelve years he was plagued with unhappiness and self-doubts as he struggled to master his craft. He finally secured some small measure of success with the publication of his
Twice-Told Tales (1837). His marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842 was a happy one.
The Scarlet Letter (1850), which brought him immediate recognition, was followed by
The House of the Seven Gables (1851). After serving four years as the American Consul in Liverpool, England, he traveled in Italy; he returned home to Massachusetts in 1860. Depressed, weary of writing, and failing in health, he died on May 19, 1864, at Plymouth, New Hampshire.
The baby in her arms and the bright scarlet letter 'A' on her gown are evidence and punishment for the shame she has brought on her religious neighbours. Will Hester continue to conceal the name of the husband who sent her away from Europe years before as well as that of the father of her baby? Will the husband get his revenge on the man who has shamed him? Will that man admit his past and join Hester and her daughter Pearl? Or is the matter out of their hands, waiting to be decided between the forces of the Lord and of Satan?