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Word Count: 5,422
Chapter 1 Hester Prynne has committed adultery Two years ago her husband in Europe sent her on ahead to America while he settled some business affairs Alone in the small town of Boston Hester has shocked and angered her neighbors by secretly taking a lover and bringing forth a girl child The Puritans of Boston are shocked that she has done this thing They are angry because she will not reveal the name of the father of the child Although the usual penalty for adultery is death the Puritan judges called magistrates have decided to be merciful to her declaring that Hesters punishment will be to stand for several hours on the scaffold a high platform near the market-place in full view of everyone She will hold her infant in her arms and will be wearing on the breast of her dress a piece of scarlet cloth formed into the letter A Part of her punishment is that she will continue to wear this letter on her breast for the rest of her life As the story opens in the month of June in 1642 a group of Puritan men and women gather in front of the door of the prison waiting for Hester to make her appearance The early settlers felt it necessary to build a prison and to set aside a cemetery as stern reminders of life and death The gloomy building looks out on a grass plot covered with unsightly vegetation except for one wild rose-bush which blossoms near the threshold of the prison The fragrance and fragile beauty of this one simple flower is a token a symbol that Nature may pity man even though men may be inhuman to other men The author wonders about the origin of the rose-bush - as to whether it has perhaps survived the wilderness in which it originally grew or whether it had sprung up in the footsteps of another
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