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Word Count: 872
The Scarlet Letter opens with a long preamble about how the book came to be written The nameless narrator was the surveyor of the customhouse in Salem Massachusetts In the customhouses attic he discovered a number of documents among them a manuscript that was bundled with a scarlet gold-embroidered patch of cloth in the shape of an A The manuscript the work of a past surveyor detailed events that occurred some two hundred years before the narrators time When the narrator lost his customs post he decided to write a fictional account of the events recorded in the manuscript The Scarlet Letter is the final product The story begins in seventeenth-century Boston then a Puritan settlement A young woman Hester Prynne is led from the town prison with her infant daughter Pearl in her arms and the scarlet letter A on her breast A man in the crowd tells an elderly onlooker that Hester is being punished for adultery Hesters husband a scholar much older than she is sent her ahead to America but he never arrived in Boston The consensus is that he has been lost at sea While waiting for her husband Hester has apparently had an affair as she has given birth to a child She will not reveal her lovers identity however and the scarlet letter along with her public shaming is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy On this day Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers but she again refuses to identify her childs father As it turns out the elderly onlooker is Hesters missing husband who is now practicing medicine and calling himself Roger Chillingworth He settles in Boston intent on revenge He reveals his true identity to no one except Hester whom he has sworn to secrecy Several years pass Hester supports herself by working as a seamstress and Pearl grows into a willful impish
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