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The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Summarized


Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter was first published on March 16, 1950, and was an immediate success. Many of the characters in the novel had appeared in previous works by Hawthorne. The novel deals with the effects that guilt produces in its main characters. Through the novel, Hawthorne hoped to explore the Puritan conscience.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4th, 1804. Following the death of Hawthorne's father in 1808, he moved with his mother and two sisters into the home of his mothers parents. Hawthorne went on to attend Bowdoin College in Brusnick, Maine from 1821 to 1825. Following college, he moved back to live with his mother in Salem. Hawthrone lived in relative isolation as he proceeded to concentrate on his reading and writing. In 1828, he published his first novel, Fanshawe. The novel, which was based upon his experiences at Bowdoin, was published anonymously and at his own expense. He later withdrew the novel and destroyed every copy he could find.

Hawthorne continued to read and write, and was published in various periodicals. In 1837, a collection of his stories was published as Twice Told Tales. In 1842, he married Sophia Peabody and they settled in Concord, Massachusetts. In 1844, Una, their first daughter was born. Julian, their only son, was born two years later.

The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850, and earned Hawthrone considerable fame. The following year Hawthorne welcomed his second daughter, Rose, and the publication of his novel The House of Seven Gables. In 1853 President Franklin Pierce, a former classmate of Hawthrone's from his days at Bowdoin, appointed him to serve as United States consul to England. He remained in this position, and in Liverpool, until 1857. He then spent the next few years living in Rome and Florence. These experiences helped to shape his novel The Marble Faun. The novel, which was published in 1860, would be his last completed work of fiction. Following its publication, Hawthorne returned to Concord. The last few months of his life saw Hawthorne's health in a drastic state of decline. In 1864, in an attempt to improve his failing health, Hawthorne traveled to New Hampshire. He died on May 19th, 1864 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.