The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is undoubtedly a masterpiece.The main character of the story is Hester Pryne ; a young woman who has borne an illegitimate child.Hester believes herself a widow but her husband,Roger Chillingworth returns to New England very much alive and conceals his identity.He finds his wife forced to wear the Scarlet Letter ‘A’ on her dress as a punishment for her adultery.Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding the identity of his wife’s former lover.When he learns that the father of Hester’s child is Arthur Dimmesdale, a saintly young minister who is the leader of those exhorting Hester to name the child’s father , Chillingworth proceeds to torment the guilt stricken young man.
In the end Chillingworth is morally degraded by his monomaniacal pursuit of revenge; while Dimmesdale is broken by the sense of guilt and he publically confesses his adultery before dying in Hester’s arms.
Another very important character is that of the young girl ; ‘Pearl’ who affords a unique opportunity for throwing light upon the inner nature of the sin itself.She like nature and animals is anterior to moral law but unlike them she is a human.The Scarlet Letter is also a dominant figure throughout the story as everything is tinged with its sinister glare.
The writing style is polished , real and sophisticated; quite suitable for the time in which the narrative has been set up.It quite easily brings out the structure and orthodox norms of the society in those times.The imagery however is not very strong but subtle and limited.
The book is a universal classic, a masterful exploration of humanity’s unending struggle with sin,guilt and pride.