The Custom House: Hawthorne says that he writes to the whole world hoping that someone will understand what he is talking about. He goes on to speak about Salem, where his relatives have lived and died since its existence. Over time Salem has become more of an instinct to his family, and has tried to escape, but always come back. His children were not born in Salem because he wanted to break free of the tradition. He compares people to plants in that if you do not transplant, future crops will be ruined. He descries his forefathers as Puritans. They would not approve of his lifestyle as a writer because it is to unproductive.
He then describes his return to Salem and his new job at the Custom House. His employees are elderly veterans that both amused and pained the author. After the men found out he meant no harm they relax and spend their time telling stories. Custom House Inspector- head leader of all custom houses, great physical condition despite of old age, but had no brains. His father put him into his position. He has no memories of experiences, only food. Collector- very old, strong spirit, his age has physically affected him, in war he was brutal, but now he wouldnt hurt a fly.
Surveyor- more in contact with his thoughts than with the real world, motto: Ill try, sir! , described as a rusty sword Authors title: Surveyor of Revenue One rainy day he looks through old barrels of articles and finds a scarlet letter A and a document describing the life of Hester Prynne. He claims that these serve as documents of proof for his novel. (These were never found and were probably made up to give the novel a historical sense. ) He decides to write a book based on this. He does his writing under moonlight or firelight. As he writes he realizes he must leave the Custom House.
Its way of producing a stable life is addicting. It doesnt allow you to support yourself. But then he is promoted to P. P. and decides to stay. Just as he begins to feel comfortable he was fired. Because of this he returned to writing. (Metaphor used: political guillotine. ) He claims that although the story is somber, his mind-frame while writing remained cheerful. He says he holds no grudges and that the Custom House people do not interest and upset him anymore. He thinks that he will die and soon be forgotten in Salem. He also doesnt think that future generations will find much of an interest in Salem, beyond the towns water pump.
Chapter 1: The Prison Door A crowd of men and women is gathered outside of Bostons prison door. Although Boston was originally designed as a Utopia, but the first few things to be built were the prison and the cemetery. He also says that the prison has been aged quickly. Outside of the prison is a small lot with wild plants growing in it. The most important is the rose bush. It offers comfort to prisoners being brought into jail and to people about to be executed. This rosebush has been kept alive in history and outlived the gigantic pines and oaks around it.
Chapter 2: The Market Place The author starts the chapter with a crowd outside the prison gate. He explains that in this time even minor violations and punishments were treated exactly the same as executions. Women of this time were not only larger physically, but were more forceful verbally as well. This is the main reason they dislike Hester, who is better looking than they are. They feel that her punishment should be severe, from a branding on her forehead to death. Hester comes out of the prison and allows her three-month-old child to see natural light for the first time.
She then shifts her baby to her other arm to reveal a scarlet A on her. It is described as artistically done, gorgeous, and elaborate. Hester Prynne- young, tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale, dark hair that was so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, deep black eyes, beautiful face, ladylike Hester surprises the crowd by coming out with dignity and beauty instead of being obscured. The crowd was also upset that her scarlet letter was so nice that it almost was a thing of pride instead of punishment.
She made her way into the market place and stood on the town scaffold. The crowd was somber and grave. Hester soon begins to reminisce about different events in her life. She remembers her father and mother in England. She also remembers a man that was deformed that is connected to her going to Boston. The she goes back to reality and is finding it hard to believe that she is actually on the scaffold with her baby and the scarlet letter A. Chapter 3: The Recognition Hester looks over the crowd and is horrified to see an Indian with a disfigured man. The man has a conversation with a man in the crowd.
From this he learns that the deformed man had grievous mishaps by sea and has since been a prisoner of Indians. He is in town now to try to be redeemed out of his captivity. The man in the crowd then explains that the woman being punished is Hester Prynne. She had been the wife of a learned man in England who was to move to Massachusetts. This man sent his wife ahead to take care of affairs after she left. Hester arrived in Boston and two years go by without word from her husband. He is considered lost at sea. Hester eventually gets lonely and has a child with an unknown man in the colony.
This is why she is being punished today. Hester concentrates on the disfigured man and doesnt hear her name being called by John Wilson. Governor Bellingham- a gentleman advanced in years with hard experiences written on his face. John Wilson- the oldest clergyman of Boston, a great scholar, kind and genial spirit Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale- a young clergyman, very striking aspect, white, lofty, and impending brow, large, brown, melancholy eyes, and a mouth which was apt to be tremulous, kept himself simple and childlike Dimmesdale had been chosen to give the childs unknown father a chance to confess.
He asks Hester to name the father, but she refuses. After she continually refuses to give the fathers name, clergyman Wilson goes into a sermon on sin, during which Hesters baby cries. Then Hester is returned to the prison once again. Her scarlet letter gleams on the prison wall before she finally goes away. Chapter 4: The Interview After Hester returns to her jail cell she is in a state of frenzy. Guards are worried she might hurt herself or the baby so they call a physician to see her. The physician is the same person Hester was married to and had seen in the crowd.
As soon as he enters the cell he administers a medicine to comfort the baby. Then he looks over Hester. Roger Chillingworth (a. k. a. Mr. Prynne)- Husband of Hesters that sent her ahead to Boston but he never came. He was captured y Indians and has since learned medicines that are very advanced. He is physically deformed, one shoulder lower than the other. He tells Hester he has no grudge against her, but he does against the babys father. He asks her repeatedly, but she will not tell. He claims that it doesnt matter if she speaks to him about it because he believes that the guilt will make him stick out from the crowd.
Roger makes Hester swear to keep it a secret that he is alive, especially to the real father and she agrees. He then comments then comments that this will ruin her soul, not his. Chapter 5: Hester at the Needle Hesters prison sentence is finally over. When she walks out of the prison alone this time she realizes the reality of the situation. She decides to stay in Boston, even though she could easily flee. She feels a connection to the spot and feels that by staying she will purify herself and possibly receive redemption for her sin. She makes her home in a small thatched cottage on a peninsula in the outskirts of town.
Over time children watch from a distance and then run away in fear. To make money Hester begins to make garments for the upper class members of her town. Her works are worn at major ceremonies and become the fashion. She also spends time making clothes for free to give to the poor as a way of penance. Hester herself wore course garments, while her baby was dressed nice. Hester was still an outcast from society. She had grown patient to the way people scold her when they buy her clothes. The poor people were not grateful and continued to torment her. Hester is hurt every time this happens.