American Literature books summary
tries to tell him not to go. Dangerously, sharks bite at the oars as the
boats pull away.
Starbuck, in a monologue, laments Ahab's sure doom. On the water, Ahab sees
Moby Dick breach. Seeing Fedallah strapped to the whale by turns of rope,
Ahab realizes that this is the first hearse that the Parsee had forecasted.
The whale goes down again and Ahab rows close to the ship. He tells
Tashtego to find another ag and nail it to the main masthead. The boats
soon see the white whale again and go after him. But Moby Dick only turns
around, and heads for the Pequod at full speed. He smashes the ship.
It goes down without its captain. The ship, Ahab realizes, is the second
hearse. Impassioned, Ahab is now determined to strike at Moby Dick with all
of his power: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering
whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee;
for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffns and all
hearses to one common pool and since neither can be mine, let me then tow
to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned
whale! Thus, I give up the spear!" After darting the whale, Ahab is caught
around the neck by the ying line. He is dragged under the sea. Tashtego,
meanwhile, is still trying to nail the ag to the ship's spar as it goes
down. He catches a sky-hawk in mid-hammer and the screaming bird, folded in
the ag, goes down with everything else.
In the Epilogue, Ishmael wraps up the story, saying that he is the only one
who survives the wreck. All the boats and ship were ruined. Ishmael
survives only because Queequeg's coffn bobs up and becomes his life buoy. A
day after the wreck, the Rachel, still cruising for her first lost son,
The Scarlet Letter
Introduction: The first forty-four pages written by the author tell about
his life working at the Custom House in Salem Massachusetts. During his
time of employment there, he discovers some records in the attic and begins
to piece together the story of Hester Prynne, an adulterous man in Puritan
Salem. The Scarlet Letter is his account of the story with as many facts
as he, the author, was able to gather from the documents he found.
Chapter 1: Hawthorn’s first chapter is short, detailing the set up of
colonial Salem. He talks of the town and how essential prisons and
cemeteries are in the organization. Next to the steps of the Salem prison
is a rosebush that has survived centuries and Hawthorn says this bush gives
comfort with it’s beauty to the people who enter and leave the
Chapter 2: A town meeting is taking place and the people of the town,
mainly the women, are gathered for the release of the adulteress, Hester
Prynne. She steps out of the prison with the town beadle leading her with
his hand on her shoulder. Hawthorn describes her as beautiful with a very
proud stature that does not cower to the crowd of disdain that surrounds
her. On her chest she bears the scarlet letter ‘A’ that is surrounded by
shining gold thread upon a gown that scandalizes the women of the town.
Clutched close to her breast is the child that was produced by her adultery
and the apparent reason she was not more harshly punished for her crime.
She stood there under public scrutiny, not with a look of shame but almost
bewilderment that her life had panned out as it had.
Chapter 3: Mistress Prynne is placed upon the pillory for three hours so
all can see her shame. As she is standing there with her babe, she notices
a new man in town along with an Indian. From the moment she sees him, she
cannot take her eyes from him. An angry look quickly flashes across the
man’s face at the sight of her and he inquires to the town person next to
him why the woman is made to stand upon the pillory. Both the man and the
readers are informed that Mistress Prynne was married to a man who has not
yet returned from the Netherlands where they sailed from to New England.
Because she was so long away from her husband, it is obvious that he was
not the father of her child. The man asked of her sentence, and of the man
who did father the child and the town’s person told him that the father is
not known. The Governor of the town who is standing on a higher platform
then appeals to the Reverend Dimmesdale to extract the name of father from
Mistress Prynne. After an emotional plea to Mistress Prynne, she still
refuses to state the name of the father of her child, and states that her
child has only a heavenly father.
Chapter 4: When Mistress Prynne was returned to the prison, she was in such
mental disarray that the jailer, Master Brackett, decided to call in the
physician. Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s real husband, introduces himself
as the physician for Mistress Prynne and as soon as he enters the room, she
goes perfectly still. Mr. Chillingsworth was the same man who she saw when
she was on the pillory. He began to examine the baby and Hester expresses
her concern that he will hurt the child as revenge on her.
They talk about their failed marriage, and how there was never love
between them, and Roger tells her not to reveal to anyone who he really
was. After giving her a draught to calm her, he asks her who the father of
the child was. Again, as she did when asked by the Reverend, she refuses
to give the name of the father. At her refusal, he tells her that he will
find out who the man is and that she not breathe a word of his identity to
Chapter 5: Hester was released from prison and free to go wherever she
wished. Instead of fleeing the town she moved to a little cottage outside
of it, and supported herself with her needlework. She sewed for many
different people of the town but kept herself in plain clothing, save the
letter upon her bosom. She took all of the passion of her life and used it
to ply her needle. Much of her work she donated to the poor as penance for
her guilt. Although they all coveted her services, she was still an
outcast looked upon with malice and her sin burned deep in her soul.
Chapter 6: Hester named her child Pearl because she was her treasure in
life. Pearl was beautiful and intelligent, and had an air of a nymph about
her. Even as a baby, the child was fascinated by the scarlet letter Hester
wore upon her breast. This was a constant reminder for Hester of her sin.
Pearl was a happy laughing child who had a fiery passion and temper that
made Hester and others wonder if she was a demon with her black eyes.
Everywhere Hester went Pearl went also. They had only each other. Hester
attempted to raise her daughter with Puritan values but could not
discipline her and Pearl held the strings on whether or not she did what
she was told. Chapter 7: Hester and Pearl went to the Governor
Bellingham’s house to deliver a pair of gloves she had embroidered for him.
More than the delivery, Hester was there to plead to be able to keep
Pearl. The people of the town thought that because of her sin, Hester was
unfit to raise her child. When she arrived to the house, the governor was
with other gentleman in the garden and they waited for a chance to speak
with him. As they were waiting, Pearl was examining a shining suit of
armor and saw Hester in it. She was delighted by the sight, and Hester’s
image was lost behind the large shiny red letter that was magnified by the
Chapter 8: The Governor, the pastor John Wilson, Reverend Dimmesdale, and
Roger Chillingworth exited the garden to find their path blocked by the
nymph Pearl. Struck by the beauty of the scarlet clad child they ask her
to whom she belongs. She answers that she is Pearl, and her mother’s
child. As they enter the hall, they see Mistress Prynne and are happy that
she has come so they can discuss what to do with Pearl. Testing to see
whether the child has been properly instructed so far, the dotting John
Winston asks young Pearl who made her. Pearl, though she knew the correct
answer was the Heavenly Father answered that she had been plucked by her
mother from the rose bush by the prison door.
The gentlemen were appalled by the child’s answer and decided that Hester
should not raise her further. Hester was angry with this and pleaded
Reverend Dimmesdale who knew she was capable of guiding the child
spiritually to let her keep Pearl. She argued that God gave her Pearl, and
that they could not take away the only joy that God gave her. After
discussing it further among themselves, with the Reverend giving an
impassioned plea for Hester, they decided to let her keep Pearl. Hester
was thankful, and she and Pearl left for home. Mr. Chillingworth offered
to figure out the identity of the father of the child, but his offer was
refused. As she leaves, Hester realizes that she would have sold her soul
to the devil if it meant she could keep her child.
Chapter 9: Since his first appearance in town, the people looked on Roger
Chillingworth as a blessing. They were thankful that such a learned
physician was given to them. As time went on, Mr. Chillingworth and the
Reverend Dimmesdale became very close. Though he was young, the Reverend
was growing sicker and sicker by the day and the people of the town
implored him to let the physician examine him. He refused but continued to
become closer and closer to the old man. After a while they even began
living together in the home of a respected matron of the town. As time
passed, the people began to look at Mr. Chillingworth differently however.
Instead of seeing a man sent from God to help them, they saw in his old
disfigured form, a servant of Satan that was sent to haunt the Reverend.
Chapter 10: Mr. Chillingworth watched the Reverend searching him for the
secret sin of his soul. Searching for Hester’s lover became the secret
purpose of his life and it clouded his head and heart. Slowly he was
trying to get the Reverend to confess to the deed, and one afternoon began
a discussion with him about unconfessed sin and how it eats away at the
soul. While they are talking, they see Hester and Pearl in the cemetery.
They look up at the men in the window and they wonder if the mischevious
nymph like, Pearl, is true evil. After the woman and the child leave the
cemetery, the men continue with their conversation.
Mr. Chillingworth accuses the Reverend that he cannot cure him until he
knows the pain upon his soul because that sin is part of his bodily
ailment. In a moment of passion, the Reverend blows up at him telling him
that he will reveal nothing to the earthly man and leaves the room. This
display of passion makes Mr. Chillingworth exceptionally pleased because it
brings him closer to finding out that his suspicions of Hester and the
Reverend are true.
Chapter 11: As the days went by the Reverend Dimmesdale continued to be
haunted more and more by the sin upon his soul. He would look upon his
companion the physician with disgust and feel as if the black part of his
heart was spilling over into the rest of his life. The people of the town
began to worship him more, saying he was a wonderful and saintly young
preacher. As they looked up to him with greater fervor, he began to hate
himself more. Many a time he stood on his pulpit aching to tell them of
his sin, release it from his heart. However, all he could manage to say
was that he was a terrible sinner, which only inspired his congregation
more because they saw him as virtually flawless. He fasted, prayed, and
kept vigils in order to purge himself, but the sin upon his soul haunted
him without end.
Chapter 12: It was midnight and Reverend Dimmesdale was so tortured by his
sin that he took himself out and stood upon the scaffold that Hester had
stood. He planned to stay there all night suffering from his own shame.
At one point he cried out hoping in his mind to wake the whole town so they
could see him standing there, so his sin could finally be revealed and his
mind eased. However, no one in the town was awakened by his cry. At one
point from his perch, he saw the Pastor John Winston walking towards him,
but the man was wrapped up tightly in his cloak and did not notice the
Reverend on the scaffold.
His mind wandered to what he would look like in the morning when his body
was frozen with cold, and at the image of himself in his mind, he laughed.
His laugh was returned by a sprightly laugh in the darkness that was none
other than Pearl’s. He cried out to her in the night, and to Hester. They
appeared having been out measuring a robe for a man who had died that
evening. At the Reverend’s request, they came to stand upon the scaffold
with him and they joined hands in their sin. Pearl asked the Reverend
repeatedly if he would come stand with them on the scaffold the next day at
noon, but the Dimmesdale refused. Out of the darkness, Mr. Chillingworth
appeared, and the Reverend spoke his fear and hatred of the man. He asked
who he really was, and because of her oath, Hester kept her silence. Pearl
whispered gibberish to him in revenge for him not standing with them the
next day on the scaffold. The Reverend looked up into the sky and saw a
meteor trail that looked like a large red ‘A’ leering at him. Mr.
Chillingworth told him to come home and he left the scaffold with the
evilly happy physician.
Chapter 13: Seven years had passed since little Pearl’s birth. The letter
on Hester’s chest to the village people had become a symbol of her good
deeds. It set her apart from the general population, but many looked on
her as a sister of charity. When someone was in need she was always the
one by his or her side. Many people in town said the A stood for able.
She had changed. She was an empty form, void of the passion and love that
people were able to see in her before.
Her luxurious hair was always hidden from the sight of the people. After
the minister’s vigil, Hester found a new cause for sacrifice, a new
purpose. She decided to talk to the old physician, her former husband, and
try to save his victim from further mental torture. After making her
decision, she came upon him as he was walking the peninsula.
Chapter 14: Hester instructed Pearl to go run and play and she went to a
pool and saw herself there. Hester accosted Mr. Chillingworth and he began
telling her of all the good things the people in the town had said about
her. The leaders in the town at the last council meeting had even thought
about admitting Hester to take the letter off her bosom. Hester told him
that if the Lord meant her to take it off her chest that it would have
fallen off long ago. While they began talking, Hester took a good look at
him. In the past seven years he had aged well, but there was a strikingly
different look about him. He wore a guarded look of an eager angry man who
was out for revenge.
They began talking about the minister and Mr. Chillingworth reveals that
had it not been for his care, the minister would have died long ago.
Hester asks if he has not had enough revenge since he was able to torture
the minister every day by burying into his heart. He answers no, that it
will never be enough. Hester tells him that she plans on revealing his
secret to the minister and he tells her that neither of them are sinful and
evil, they just must lead the lives that they were given because of her
sin. They say farewell, and Hester leaves him to gathering herbs.
Chapter 15: Hester watches him for a while from a distance disgusted at the
evil she sees in him. She turns to find little Pearl who was playing with
all the different things in nature. When Pearl goes back to her mother,
Hester sees that the child has made a letter A out of seaweed and placed it
on her chest. Hester asks the child if she knows what the letter her
mother wears means. Pearl answers that it is the same reason the minister
keeps his hand over his chest.
That is all she knows however, and she asks earnestly why she wears the
scarlet letter, and why the minister places his hand over his heart. Ever
since she was little, Pearl had a certain fascination with the letter that
tortured her mother even more. Hester decided it was better to not
unburden her sin upon her child and told her daughter that it meant
nothing. After that day however, Pearl would ask her mother two or three
times a day what the scarlet letter meant.
Chapter 16: : Hester learned that the Minister had gone into the woods to
visit a friend who lived among the Indians. She learned when he was
expected to return, and when the day came, she and Pearl went into the
forest so she could catch him on his return and speak with him in private.
As they enter the forest, Pearl says that she can stand in the sunlight,
but the sunlight runs away from Hester. In response, Hester reaches out to
touch the stream of light that flocks around the little elf-child, and it
vanishes when her hand comes near. Pearl then asks her mother for a story
about the black man who inhabits the forest, which she over heard a woman
the previous evening talking about. Pearl said that people went into the
forest and signed the Black man’s book with their blood and that she heard
the scarlet letter was the black man’s mark on her mother. They traveled
into the deep into the forest and stopped next to a little brook that Pearl
began playing around. After a while, they saw the Reverend Dimmesdale come
walking slowly down the path, and Hester tells Pearl to run and play.
Chapter 17: Hester calls out to the Minister and he instantly straightens
up and looks towards her. He finds out it is she and they inquire on how
their lives have been in the last seven years. They sit down together on a
log, and ask each other if they have found peace. The minister expresses
his sadness and how he feels like a hypocrite teaching others to be holy,
when he himself has a terrible hidden sin. Hester tries to help him by
talking with him and caring for him. He thanks her for her friendship.
She then tells him of Roger Chillingsworth, how he is her husband, and out
for revenge. Dimmesdale is horrified but knew that something was wrong
with Roger Chillingworth. Hester could not take the frown that descended
upon his face, and asked him if he forgave her. He has, and she asks if he
remembers what they had. She hints that they once had a great passion and
affection for each other. Hester talks of them leaving together. Arthur
says he has not the strength to travel that far, but with Hester helping
him, they thought they could do it.
Chapter 18: Together they decide to leave the New World together and not
torture themselves further with their sin so that only God will judge them.
To them, they are damned already. Hester unhooks her scarlet letter and
tosses it by the bubbling brook. They make plans together and say that
they will leave for England on the ship that is in the harbor. Talking of
their love and their plans, they call back Pearl, for once happy and with
lifted spirits. Pearl is off in the forest playing and interacting with
the animals. When they call her back, Pearl comes slowly when she sees
them sitting together.
Chapter 19: They sat there looking at Pearl as she approached. She had
adorned herself with wild flowers and looked like a fairy child. They
rejoiced in their child as she came towards him, and Arthur was
exceptionally afraid and anxious for the interview. Pearl stopped at the
brook and stared at them. The child pointed at her mother with a frown.
Hester called out to her harshly to come and Pearl began screaming and
throwing a tantrum. Hester realized that the child was upset that her
scarlet letter was not affixed to her mother’s breast. She walked over to
where it lay on the ground and showed it to the child. She pinned it back
into place, and Pearl was pacified and happy again. They approached the
minister and the three of them held hands, and they tried to explain to her
that they were all going to be a happy family. The minister kissed Pearl’s
forehead and she ran quickly to the brook to try to wash it away.
Chapter 20: Arthur Dimmesdale walked home happily. For the first time in
seven years, there was a bounce in his step and a light in his hurting
heart. On his way, he saw some of his parishioners and he had thoughts of
corruption on his mind. He thought about the reaction he would get if he
whispered corrupting things in their ears. There are three different
people he runs into in which he feels this. He resists the temptation to
do this, and wonders why he is having these thoughts. He wonders if he
signed the black man’s book in the forest with his blood. He runs into a
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