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The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne. Menu. Introduction Background Discussion Starters. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter: Introduction. What happens when a private sin. becomes a public crime?. The Scarlet Letter: Introduction.

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the scarlet letter nathaniel hawthorne
The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne

Menu

Introduction

Background

Discussion Starters

the scarlet letter introduction
The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

What happens when a private sin

becomes a public crime?

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The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

In Puritan New England a young woman named Hester Prynne gives birth to a baby girl.

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The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

Hester’s elderly husband has been missing for years.

Everyone knows he can’t be the father.

the scarlet letter introduction3
The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

The town punishes Hester harshly for her adultery.

First, they imprison her.

Then, they condemn her to wear a scarlet letter A for the rest of her life.

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The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

The townspeople treat Hester as an outcast.

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The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

What her neighbors don’t know is the identity of the baby’s father.

Hester refuses to tell.

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The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

Her lover, whoever he is, seems to escape punishment.

Or does he?

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The Scarlet Letter: Introduction

Perhaps hidden suffering

is even worse than public shame.

the scarlet letter background
The Scarlet Letter: Background

Persecuted in England, the Puritans came to North America to form their own communities.

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The Scarlet Letter: Background

Life in the Colonies was harsh,

but it gave the Puritans the opportunity to form a society based on their religious ideals.

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The Scarlet Letter: Background

The setting of The Scarlet Letter is Boston in the 1640s.

Boston had recently been founded by about one thousand English Puritans, led by John Winthrop.

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The Scarlet Letter: Background

Puritans sought the freedom to live by their beliefs.

However, the Puritan leaders did not tolerate religious beliefs that differed from their own.

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The Scarlet Letter: Background

As for personal freedom…

every member of the community was held to strict standards of behavior.

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The Scarlet Letter: Background

In a Puritan community such as Hester’s, no aspect of life was truly private.

People kept a close watch on their neighbors.

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The Scarlet Letter: Background

Those considered sinners were publicly—and harshly—punished, as an example to others.

the scarlet letter discussion starters
The Scarlet Letter: Discussion Starters

Discuss (1)

Hester goes to jail for an action that, in our society, usually would remain private.

  • What kinds of wrongdoing do you think should be punished publicly?
  • What kinds should remain private for the people involved?
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The Scarlet Letter: Discussion Starters

Discuss (2)

Motivated by love and loyalty, Hester keeps a painful secret.

  • What kinds of secrets should you keep?
  • When might it be better to reveal a friend’s secret, even though that person will be angry with you?