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.
It is 1642 in the Puritan town of Boston. Hester Prynne has been found guilty of adultery and has born an illegitimate child. In lieu of being put to death, she is condemned to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress as a reminder of her shameful act. Hesters husband had been lost at sea years earlier and was presumed dead, but now reappears in time to witness Hesters humiliation on the town scaffold. Upon discovering her deed, the vengeful husband becomes obsessed with finding the identity of the man who dishonored his wife. To do so he assumes a false name, pretends to be a physician and forces Hester keep his new identity secret. Meanwhile Hesters lover, the beloved Reverend Dimmesdale, publicly pressures her to name the childs father, while secretly praying that she will not. Hester defiantly protects his identity and reputation, even while faced with losing her daughter, Pearl. Hailed by Henry James as, the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country, Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter is a masterful portrayal of humanitys continuing struggle with sin, guilt and pride.Includes unique illustrations.