The Scarlet Letter summary by chapter-wise

The Scarlet Letter summary


Chapter 1

Near a dilapidated wooden prison a crown of men and women gathered.  The narrator states that the founder of new settlement has tried to build a prison and a graveyard. He goes on this place is founded in Boston and it is described as the black flower of civilized society.

A blooming rose bush is standing next to the prison.  The narrator thinks that the rose bush is grown in a defiled, unwanted place to give comfort and inner peace to the prisoners and welcome anyone who enter the jail and leave it to die on the scaffold.  The narrator wisely describes the rose bush as the beginning of the story as it is at the entrance of the prison gate.  It seems that he is welcoming the readers with the blossom of rose before he takes the readers into the story.

The author tries to symbolize the welcoming gesture so that the readers might learn his tale of human frailty and sorrow.


Chapter 2

here in this chapter the crowed anxiously awaited at the entrance of the prison gate. They are waiting at the gate for Hester Prynne to come before them.  Their faces were grim. However their face show familiarity as it was a regular custom for puritans to watch the criminal coming out of the jail to be punished. The narrator manifests that the Puritans gave higher priority to their religion and law. They followed law strictly and it was rigid.

Among the waiting crowed some women shouted that Hester deserved to be punished harshly.  on the other hand one among the crowed cites that Revered Dimmesdale, the pastor of Hester, must also be ashamed that a member of his community has committed such an shameful sin.  Moreover the author states that Hester should be sentenced very hard.

Hester leaves the cell with a three – year –old daughter in her loving lap. The prison guard places a hand on Hester’s shoulder.  But she shakes his hand off her shoulder and strides fast alone. When she was coming out, her face was radiant, proud, beautiful and holding natural dignity.

Hester on her breast bears a scarlet letter ‘A’.  It was affixed with beautiful embroidery that knocks some women in the crowed as inappropriate. The narrator describes the scarlet letter nicely: it holds exceptional fertility and brilliant luxuriance that pushed her beyond the Puritan Society with an acceptable dress.

The physical feature o Hester presents her to be tall with fine dark glossy hair, charming face and deep black eyes.  She uprightly holds a lady like dignity with full conviction.  The narrator describes that was any woman more powerful and beautiful as she was when she was coming out of the jail.

The crowed in front of the cell was staring at the scarlet letter of Hester that transfixes everyone there in the gathering.  The letter sets Hester apart from the crowed.

AS part of her punishment, Hester supposed to stand on the scaffold for hours in front of the crowed.   from  the prison she walks to the scaffold which is agonizing for her and nobody sees it.  However she never reveals it to anybody either by her words or face expressions.   the narrator observes that once the scaffold was a beautiful  image of divine maternity and now it has turn into taint of deepest sin.

Judge, governor Bellingham, and other officials from  their seats notice the crows looking at Hester  stepping on the Scaffold. Being aware of the presence of the officials remain remains very serious.  Hester within her feels to scream loudly at the crowed and jumped off the scaffold, but she reins her feeling of remorse.

on the scaffold Hester thinks of her past as to direct her attention to somewhere else from the crowd around the scaffold. she remembers her past life in England of spending days in poverty.  She envisions her parents and also her husband.

Finally she comes to present.  she gazes at the menacing crowd surrounded her.  with deep sorrow she clutches the scarlet letter and her infant, Pearl,  on the breast. she holds her child so tight that her baby in the lap cries in pain. soon then she realizes that the scarlet letter ‘A’ and the baby are her only reality in the world now.


Chapter 3


Chapter 4

Coming back to prison, pearl cries unceasingly in the lap of her mother.  It was uncontrollable. Therefore the prison guard allowed doctor to enter the cell and help calm down pearl. But Hester asks for a physician. Roger Chillingworth comes in the cell and gives healing concoctions to the mother and her daughter. Hester was a bit anxious about taking the dose lest he poisons them.

However Chillingworth carries no such intention in him rather he forgives Hester for the betrayal she did with him. He insists Hester to reveal the name of the person who is causing her the trouble to bear, the father of the child. However she refuses again to tell the truth. Accepting her arrogance, he warns her not to identify his name as well as her husband. Heater remains silent. But she was suspicious of chillingworth. She thinks of sealing her own by agreeing to keep his secret.


Chapter 5

It is about three years Hester is in the prison. Decision is made to release Hester from prison and set her free. However she decides not to leave Boston. Hence she takes Pearl with her to stay at the corner of the town maybe in an abandoned cabin.

Hester support her living on sewing. People who rejected her now comes to her with a need  a of sewing clothes. Since she works as a seamstress many from the town also the governors come to her for help. Though everybody pays her for the work, yet they continue to shun her from the community.  The governor Bellingham comes for sewing his clothes and pays her the legal amount.

Amid the work she feels lonely. Her only companion is her daughter, Pearl, who constantly reminds her of her alienation, her crime and her sin. However Hester is convinced to keep the secret from Pearl however painful it may be for her.


 Chapter 6

The narrator presents Pearl as the sin of Hester in her lap. She is manifested as Hester’s sin in the novel. As a result she is rejected from other children in the town. Most of the time Pearl feels a sense of defiance and deviance and cannot manage a fitting place in the community.

Though Pearl is always with Hester as a constant companion, she feels lonely. Moreover Pearl sense the feeling of solitude. Hester strongly realize that the scarlet letter she is wearing is the main medium of their separation from the society which has made them lonely.

Seeing the strange living in the corner of the town, Pearl perplexedly asks her mother the reason of their secluded living. Pearl wishes to know the meaning of the scarlet letter and its story. when pearl hears as an imp of evil, she feels sorry.


Chapter 7

A rumor about Pearl that she is possessed goes rip through the town. The authorities of the town decide to take Pearl away from her mother thinking she might be dangerous for Hester.  Also an prevailing decision hovers over them is that if Pearl is not possessed, they will not give her less punishment.

To inquire about the rumors, Pearl decides to meet the governor. When she goes to see the governor, she presents him a pair of gloves as her skill that she is a talented seamstress.  However it was not easy to make way to the governor as the children of the local community were taunting them.

Pearl notices that Hester is hidden behind the scarlet letter, her face seems distorted to Pearl.  Hester feels that Pearl is distancing her. Moreover Hester seemingly finds out that Pearl is possessed by demons which may not be true.


Chapter 8

There come John Wilson, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale at the house of the Governor. When they see Hester and Pearl, they start to tease to them.  Since Pearl was wearing scarlet clothing they called her demon child.  But when they saw Hester, then stopped teasing her because they came to know that she is the daughter of Hester bearing the same sin.

Governor asks Hester what legal reason Hester gives in keeping Pearl with her.  In an answer, Hester says that she will make her understand the meaning of wearing the scarlet letter. They accept her pleading. The governor reminds that the letter is only a badge of shame for Pearl.

Sarcastically Mr. Wilson asks Pear of her making. She answers innocently that she is plucked from a rose bush outside the prison.  The governor was shocked by the answer. He gave a strict order to a vigilant eye on Pearl and the fitness of Hester to be a mother of Pearl. Hester oaths not to leave Pearl at cost.

Dimmesdale in defense said that Pearl was sent by God to serve Hester and save Hester from sinning again.  Chillingworth doubts his comments  for the amount of passion and conviction he shows toward them.

Pearl tightly clutches the hand of Dimmesdale. She runs down from the hall which seems to Mr. Wilson that she barely touch the ground.

The speech of Dimmesdale delivers convinces the governor so much that governor does not take Pearl from Hester.  While coming out of the residence of governor, Hester and Pearl notice that Mistress Hibbins invites Hester to witches’ assembly in the wood with the black man. However she declines to go there and says that she will stay to take care of Pearl.


Chapter 9

In Boston settlement there were not many skilled physicians. As a result Puritans warmly welcome Chillingworth with an open heart because he acquired a sound knowledge of both Indian and traditional medical treatment.

Dimmesdale falls sick severely. His health worsens slowly and often sees his hand holding over his heart.  Chillingworth is appointed to treat him. Now Hester, Pearl and Dimmesdale are together.

As Chillingworth treats Dimmsdale, and the health of Dimmesdale wanes, the  local people notice that Chillingworth is transformed from a gentle man into an ugly and evil man.  The local  people guess that getting treatment  from chilligworth is not going to be well with Dimmesdale as they think that Chillngworth might have been sent from the devil.


Chapter 10

While in total service of Dimmesdale, Chillingworth finds out that Dimmesdale is suffering from a stress caused by some kind of tension may stem from something secret.  Chillingworth tries to know the root cause of his stress or the secret disease Dimmesdale is going through. However Dimmesdale vehemently does not want to divulge it to him.

Chilliigworth and Dimmesdale one day see that Hester and Pearl walking in the cemetery outside of home of Dimmesdale.  Pearl was playing with burrs. As Dimmesdale came toward them Pearl throws a burr to Dimmesdale.  Hester cries that Hester should tell them to leave her since the Black man has taken over Dimmesdale. And she fears that Dimmesdale might possess them too.

The health of Dimmsdale goes worse.  Chillingworth tries to know the secret he is holding for which Dimmesdale is suffering from but Dimmesdale keeps his mouth shut.  In deep sleep of Dimmesdale, Chililngworth pushes him aside and find something that gives him joy.  The narrator narrates this as the touch of Satan who steals the soul of Chillingworth.


Chapter 11

Now  Chillingworth comes to know that Dimmesdale is the father of Pearl. As a result he secretly makes attempt to suffer Dimmesdale as miserable as possible.  on the other hand Dimmesdale  goes through inner torment since Chillingworth comes to know his secret and begins to hate him for giving him not proper treatment.

However Dimmesdale find no cessations despite his illness to preach at the public.  He boldly preach sermon mostly on sins. In fact he was fully embedded with the thought of his own sins.  He manifests in his sermon that he is a liar and polluter to his prisoners. However he does not reveal his sins in the public though he lament inside.  In spite of his shrewd deliverance public feels something is wrong in Dimmesdale favorably.

Dimmesdale begins to hate himself for the sins he has committed with Hester and Pearl as he did not accept them openly. His conscience tickles him  as a result he punishes himself physically and also mentally  by staying up nights pondering over what he should  do now. Moreover he managed to receive self punishment by starving and whipping.  the narrator observes him as an untrue man. However the narrator end the chapter with a thought in the mind of Dimemsdale that is going to ease him.


Chapter 12

In deep contrition in heart, Dimmesdale one night mounts the scaffold where Hester and Pearl stood to be shamed. In tears he imagines the real picture of what had happened with Hester and Pearl in front of the public.  He sobs! Next  to the scaffold was Mr. Wilson walking  who did not see him crying.

Meantime Hester and Pearl were returning from the governors house. While coming, they did notice Dimesdale  and met him on the scaffold.  Pearl with twinkling eyes asks Dimmsdale to come up on the scaffold with them in front of the public. In answer to Pearl Dimmesdale admits that he will stand with them with love only on the judgment day.

A meteor is seen in the sky in which Dimmesdale sees it lighting in the shape of an “A’. Clever Pearl notices that Chillinworth is observing them. Chillingworth urges  Dimmesdale to down from the scaffold and join him to go home. At last Dimmsdale comes down and accompany him toward home.

Next day comes. Dimmesdale prepares his best sermon ever. After his delivering the church sexton returns a black glove to Dimmesdale saying that it was found in the church left by Satan. The towns people report that they also saw a meteor in the sky forms the letter A and mean that the dead governor has appeared in the heaven.


Chapter 13

Pearl is now seven years old. In the course of time Hester becomes more accepted in the community. People come to her for help and she nicely treats them. The scarlet letter around her neck presents her welcoming guest in the heart of the people. To some of the town people her sin dwells no more.

However Hester resides on the outskirts of the town.  Her hard life, painful existence takes away her beauty and the spirit of becoming beautiful. No passion for romantic life she lives in the realm of solitude and broken thought.  Finding no meaning in her life she feels worthless and contemplates perishing their life for good.

Hester instigate Dimmesdale to say that Chilligworth is her husband for taking the revenge from him since he was giving harsh treatment to Dimmesdale.


Chapter 14

In anguish and bitterment Hester asks Chillinworth to stop tormenting Dimmesdale. Near the sea on the beach when Hester and pearl meets Chillingworth, he informs that in the meeting they have they have discussed her scarlet letter to be removed from her chest. But in reply to his comment Hester says that she will only remove it when she is worthy of throwing it from her.

There is a change in Chillingworth which is noticed by Pearl. He is seemed to be wretched and a vengeful  man. Moreover Chillinworth finds a great change in him now in comparison with his earlier time when he was a kind scholar to all. He openly admits that he has gone through transformation in him and has lost his human heart.

Hester accepts that Chillingworth holds the life of Dimmesdale  in his hand and he can have him. But Chillingworth says that he has saved his life by not revealing his name in the public about his relation with her. Hester says that it would be better off dead for Dimmesdale than bearing the pain Chillingworth  gives to him.

Chillinworth admits his demonic treatment toward Dimmesdale. Moreover he  blames Hester for his downfall. Hester pleads with Chillingworth not to blame Dimmesdale and abuse him any further.  Hester decides to tell Dimmesdale about Chillingworth. Chillingworth tells that the fate of Dimmesdale and Hester is not in his hand.


Chapter 15

When Chilllingworth departs from them, Hester understands his tricks.  Hester begins to hate him because peruses Hester to be his wife which might bring her happy life. Hester is shrewd enough not to fall into his play.

Now Hester comes back to Pearl at the seaside where she was busy with playing seaweed making a letter A and wearing it on her chest. When she sees Hester, she pleads with her to tell her the true story of the Scarlet letter ‘A’.

Hester lies to Pearl.  She tells that she wears it because of it nice embroidery with golden thread. However guess something else and she seeks to better answer. But Hester threatens to punish her if she desires to delve into this matter.


Chapter 16

Hester plans to meet Dimmesdale along the forest path on his way back from an apostle. And she waits for him eagerly.

As they waiting for Dimmesdale, Pearl wishes to hear the story of the black man which is the nickname for devil. Pearl says that the black man haunts in the forest. He carries a book in his hand.  To her the black means with his book that her convert must be signed in blood. Then the black man put a mark on the bosom of her flowers.

When Pearl asks of her the real story of the scarlet letter she consoles her that an old man put the scarlet letter on her neck. Excited and eager to settle the matter Hester narrates the false story of the origin of the letter “A”.

Now Dimmesdale comes. He seems to be weak and feeble and walks with his hand on his chest covering his heart.  In innocent mind pearl thinks that the black man has left a mark with Dimmescale.


Chapter 17

With love of strong attraction for each other Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest. They hold each other’s hand tightly. Dimmesdale in the forest says that life would preferable without a
Scarlet letter since Hester is the sole person with whom he can fully rely and find himself with her completely.  He continues the rest of the things are falsehood, emptiness and death. They love each other.

Hester reveals openly without hesitation to Dimmesdale that Chillingworth is her husband. Furious Dimmesdale rebukes Hester for the suffering he is going through.  However he forgives her and tells that Chillingworth is a worse sinner.

Dimmesdale admits that Chillingworth is very cruel man. It is true that as Dimmesdale utter that to remain under control of Chillingworth is worse than death – however he say no way out. Hester suggests him to think of life living out of Boston. She hopes for a life of safety and full of love. Dimmesdale says that he fears to venture out his life alone. But Hester says that he need not go alone but she will accompany him.


Chapter 18

Now Dimmesdale fully resolves to leave Boston with Hester and Pearl. he gathers courage flee out of Boston and settle in Europe somewhere. Dimmesdale calls Hester as his angel who has renewed his life. Hester vehemently flings the scarlet letter away from her neck and feels great relief.

Seeing Pearl, Dimmesdale talks about her understanding about their life. In consolation to Dimmesdale, she says that Pearl barely understand their conversation and life. Meantime they see her playing in the forest with the animals where she fits well.  Hester calls out her name to meet her father Dimmesdale.


Chapter 19                                       

According to narrator  Pearl is a living hieroglyphic. Therefore Dimmesdale fears that Pearl might give away his secret to the people. This doubt is ringing in his ear which frightens him. As Hester is calling her she does not listen to her – she remains busy playing with the wild animals. She refused to come to meet them. Here Hester attributes her decline to come them to the absence of the scarlet letter on her chest.  When Hester puts the letter on she recognizes her and accepts her.

With an eager soul Pearl asks if Dimmesdale would go with them hand in hand to town. To sadden Pearl Hester tells that Dimmesdale her father is not going with them in public yet.  On the forehead of Pearl Dimmesdale gives a chaste kiss that touches her deeply.  But she runs carelessly to the brook to wash off her forehead.


Chapter 20

In full confidence, Hester and Dimmesdale decide to flee to Europe with Pearl. Hester makes plan to leave Boston on a ship bound for England in four days. However in meantime Dimmesdale sees changes taking over him with an urge of speaking blasphemy to the strangers. On the way he encounters Mistress Hibbins who suggests them to see the black man in the forest.

When Dimmesdale meets Chillingworth at home, he says to Chillingworth that the fresh air outside is so fresh that he does not need any medicine now. However Chillingworth suspects instead that he might have met Hester. Therefore he believes that Dimmesdale is recovering soon mentally and physically.

Dimmesdale prepares a sermon for the audience. But in hesitation he tears and throws it in the fire and decides to start it from the scratch.


Chapter 21

It was the day of inauguration for the new governor in Boston. Hester and Pearl stand awaiting for the procession of goverment officials and also for Dimmesdale. They stand near the Indian who painted their faces barbarians and some crew members of the ship in which she wishes to embark with Dimmesdale.

The narrator vividly says that the celebration observed in Puritan society has no grandness. However it is time for Chillingworth to burn in the fire of rage, anger and revenge. A bitter hate toward Dimmesdale and Hester devoured him.  Not in rest he runs for taking revenge.  A wild force engulfs him which has made him inhuman.

Chillingworth approach the commander of the vessel bound for England and talks to him privately. The commander comes to Hester and informs that Chillingworth also will join them on board. She looks at Chillingworth who smiles at Hester menacingly.


Chapter 22

Dimmesdale is seen in the prepossession of the officials with a bright face.  He looks very energetic  this time now. However in his transformed face Pearl does not recognize her as the one who kissed her on her forehead.  When Hester and Dimmesdale share eye contact they do not show any gesture of recognition. Hester in deep efforts take actions to quite Pearl. Pearl wants to know Dimmesdale. However Hester does not want Pearl should know him any of his recognition. As a result she keeps the secrets of Dimmesdale from Pearl because she wishes to keep her love preserved in the silence of her heart.  Thus Hester lies again and covers up the sin though it does not work.

To see Hester, Mistress Hibbins comes to Hester.  She implores Hester to can always tell her servant about the black man. And also she may acknowledge that she and her husband are such servants.  Hibbins also comments on the scarlet letter and the hand Dimmesdale put on his chest. Now Pearl asks Hibbins to enquirer what lies beneath the hand of Dimmesdale.


Chapter 23

Dimmesdale thrills the crowd with his powerful sermon that envisions new England as a chosen land of God. The crowed are pleased to hear the sermon of Dimmesdale which has impacted their motivation to dream God’s kingdom in England. On hearing the word of Dimmesdale, they think that he is verging on his near death.

The treatment of the Puritan community overwhelms Hester. Hester finds very lost even the presence of the scarlet letter on her breast seems to be losing her. Even Pearl seems to be ignoring her mother for not recognizing her without the letter. She suspected to be possessed by demons. Hester experiences pathetic trauma.

After presenting a triumphant sermon, Dimmesdale notices that Hester and Pearl are in front of the scaffold. he requests them to come to him at the scaffold but Chillingworth  with witty brains warns Dimmesdale not to defame his name in public.

Standing on the scaffold, Dimmesdale turns to his family and utters, it is the better place than what we dreamed of in the forest. He admits that the God of Hester is merciful and forgiving and he is ready to accept his shame by announcing his sin in the public. Hester and Pearl nod head of yes and Dimmesdale boldly pronounces his sin saying that he is the one has defiled Hester.  When Chillingworth looks at him, Dimmesdale in rage and repentant heart tears his cloths and show the scarlet letter engraved on his chest.

Falling on the floor Dimmesdale asks for a kiss from Pearl. Tears in eyes Pearl gives a kiss to Dimmesddale and Dimmesdale prays: may she grow in human joy,  sorrow and accept the world as it comes.  Hester also stays beside Dimmesdale and says that they will meet together in heaven. Dimmesdale thank God for being merciful to him.


Chapter 24

Now people come with different questions for the origin of the letter of Dimmesdale.  Many muttered that Dimmesdale curved this scarlet letter by himself as per his penance. However others thought that it is Chilligworth who has secretly poisoned him.  Still others ruminate that naturally the letter has appeared  on his chest since he use to remorse at lot. As a result it is the outcome of his secret suffering and pain. The authority of the town states that there should not have been letter engraved on his chest. But Dimmesdale confessed that the letter is not of his personal sin. It is only to teach to the people that we are born sinners.

Through this story the narrator says that the morality of this story is  that  we have to be true and show the world your worst or the some traits in which your worst  is visible.

After the death of Dimmesdale, Chillingworth also dies in a year. On his death he bequeathed Pearl the share of his property in England and New England. Actually no one knows what happened to Pearl later. But some clues are there that she got married to a man who fell in love with her.

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