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No, not the little red "x" that means a picture link is broken.

It's 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts. Life is difficult to eke out in a strange and hostile New World. Among a community that adheres strictly to a strict faith, Hester Prynne, a young Englishwoman sent to the colonies ahead of her much older husband (whereabouts unknown), has had a child out of wedlock. Released from prison two months after the shameful birth, she refuses to disclose the name of the child's father. As punishment, the Puritans force her to wear a scarlet letter on her breast: A, for adulteress.

Humiliated and ostracized, Hester raises Pearl, the child of her love affair. Throughout the book, we receive hints that Pearl may not be entirely human. Her demonic leanings do not go unnoticed by Hester, nor by the community at large.

On the day on which Hester receives her scarlet letter, another surprise appears: Roger Chillingworth, Hester's long-lost husband. Chillingworth arrives in the settlement and takes up residence with Dimmesdale, the local minister, and begins to prey on him.

So begins a series of dark transformations in a tale of guilt, remorse, and human weakness.

The Scarlet Letter is a romance written by 19th-century author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was adapted into a very good silent movie in 1926 with Lillian Gish, and a very bad 1995 film with Demi Moore cast as Hester.


Tropes used in The Scarlet Letter include:
  • All of the Other Reindeer: At first played straight, and then averted. Although Hester is never again welcomed by the community after her disgrace, she works hard and thanklessly to provide for and help anyone in need in the community, to the point where people start to say that her "A" stands for "able" or "admirable" -- although Hester herself never forgets what it really means.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: "Ignominy," "ignominious"
  • Batman Gambit: Orchestrated by Chillingworth to coerce Dimmesdale into admitting he's Pearl's father.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Possibly subverted.
    • Or played completely straight. Hester is at her most beautiful when she's at her best spiritually. Dimmesdale becomes less and less healthy, and thus less beautiful, as he descends into madness. Chillingworth is ugly at the start, and becomes hideous by the end.
  • Burn the Witch
  • Cannot Spit It Out
  • Cassandra Truth: At one point, Pearl suggests that Hester wears the scarlet letter for the same reason Dimmesdale keeps his hand over his heart. Hester thinks this is absurd, but later it is revealed that Dimmesdale has tortured himself by imprinting a letter A over his heart. So, congruity is that they both have shame from committing adultery.
  • The Colonial Period: See page description.
  • Come to Gawk
  • Creepy Child: Pearl, most definitely.
  • Daydream Surprise: In "The Minister's Vigil", the author makes it seem like Dimmesdale had spoken to Wilson, but then he reveals it was only in his imagination.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Chillingworth, arguably. He leaves Pearl everything he has when he dies.
  • Defiled Forever: Hester never stops blaming herself for what she did even if she does earn the respect of the town back; her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, tortures himself physically and mentally over the guilt; even their daughter, Pearl, is described in terms of a demon or monster because she was born of sin.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Demi Moore's film version of the book.
  • Disneyfication: The movie.
    • Dozerfleet Comics adaptations / fanfics about Hester's life take this Up to Eleven.
  • Double Standard: Examined trope. Hester takes the rap for commmitting adultery as Dimmesdale stands free with only guilt as his retribution. After all, signs of adultery were... more visible in a woman.
  • Evil Makeover: Chillingworth makes an apparent transformation after Hester's cheating on him.
  • Foe Yay: Chillingworth and Dimmesdale; see Heterosexual Life Partners below.
  • Foreshadowing: Dimmesdale's speech to Hester in the first chapter.
    • And this in the fourth chapter:

 Hester: Hast thou enticed me into a bond that will prove the ruin of my soul?

Roger Chillingworth: (smiles) Not thy soul... No, not thine!

  • Framing Device
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Hawthorne uses the word "intercourse" like this several times.
  • Heroic Bastard: Pearl... But not that heroic.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: In order to treat Dimmesdale effectively, Chillingworth must share a house with him and become "intimate" friends with him. Yeah, right.
  • Hourglass Plot
  • Ignored Epiphany: At one point in the book, Chillingworth has a moment of moral clarity and realizes how low he's sunk in his quest for vengeance. He keeps going.
  • Kuudere: Hester. She very rarely shows emotion in day-to-day life, but that doesn't mean she's not full of passion.
  • Last Second Chance: Post-Ignored Epiphany, Hester to Roger.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Hester taking off her bonnet in the forest scene.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: See above.
  • Living with the Villain: Dimmesdale and Chillingworth.
  • Louis Cypher: The Black Man (as in a supernatural man who is completely black and not a man who is native to Africa or Australia).
    • Dozerfleet Gerosha mythos censors this to "Shrouded Entity," a supervillain who is demon-possessed and has cosmic powers and uses his "book" full of blood signatures to create a zombie/clone army while capturing the originals in pocket dimensions.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Dimmesdale's A and death. There's a recent theory that Dimmesdale was being poisoned by Chillingworth; basically, henbane and deadly nightshade are both mentioned in the novel, and contain the poisons scopolamine and atropine, both of which a colonial doctor who'd been held captive by Indians could've known about. Both poisons cause heart irregularities, hallucinations, lack of coordination, and voice changes, while atropine causes dilated pupils and chest rashes and scopolamine causes a deep, distinctive sleep and suggestability. Coincidence? Maybe, but Hawthorne published a short story six months before this that uses atropine, and his wife was treated with scopolamine and had that sleep. Since he also had a pretty strong interest in botany, he knew what plants would've produced the poisons.
    • It's stated in the novel that some people attributed the letter on Dimmesdale's chest to divine retribution, some believed that Dimmesdale did it to himself out of guilt, and some believed that Chillingworth did it to him by means of dark magic and/or poisons. The author explicitly states that no one can know and leaves it to the reader to decide.
  • Meaningful Name: Pearl is named after a scripture passage which tells of a man who sells everything that he has to buy one pearl of superb value.
  • Mind Rape: Chillingworth's M.O. After figuring out who impregnated his estranged wife, he adopts a fake identity, convinces the guy to move in with him and spends the next seven years messing with him psychologically (and maybe medically) to torture him with guilt, while also going to great efforts to keep him just healthy enough that he doesn't die.
  • Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate: Chillingworth
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Roger Chillingworth. Creepy much?
  • Never Live It Down: In-Universe.
  • The Penance
  • Revenge
  • Redemption Equals Death: Dimmesdale
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Chillingworth
  • Retraux: 17th-century setting, 17th-century writing style, 19th-century author. A lot of American high school English classes that try to cover every major American literary movement use this book as a substitute for actual 17th-century texts.
  • Reformed but Rejected: Double subversion. Hester does regain the respect of the community by continuously being charitable and a hard worker in the mist of her sin. So much that the magistrate thought of allowing her to remove it. Even so, Hester feels that society shouldn't claim her back and that she must find her own way of dealing with her sin.
  • Slut Shaming: Half the story.
  • Take Our Word for It: Dimmesdale's sermon.
  • Talk About the Weather: What Hester and Dimmesdale first do when they meet in the forest.
  • Together in Death: On a field, sable, the letter A gules.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: Dimmesdale and his illness.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Pearl. Then again, this is a classic...
    • It is commonly taught in English classes the country over that the chapter "A Flood of Sunshine" is, in fact, one long literary metaphor for sex. Considering lines like, "All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest..." - well, is it any wonder?
    • "A Flood of Sunshine"?
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Pearl.
    • Although this could be simply because Nathaniel Hawthorne did not know a whole lot about children when he wrote this novel. Her unusual sense of perception is obviously deliberate, but she was also walking and talking long before she should have been.
      • Notable to point out that Nathaniel's first child, Una, who died young, was the inspiration for Pearl. Could this be a factor?
      • Though, as mentioned, it's implied that Pearl may not be completely human, so perhaps this emphasizes the implication?
    • "Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter; and of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along by her side! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them!"
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