2009 reprint of 1850 First Edition. The Scarlet Letter (1850) is Nathaniel Hawthorne's magnum opus. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt. The book's immediate and lasting success are due to the way it addresses spiritual and moral issues from a uniquely American standpoint. In 1850, adultery was an extremely risqué subject, but because Hawthorne had the support of the New England literary establishment, it passed easily into the realm of appropriate reading. It has been said that this work represents the height of Hawthorne's literary genius. Dense with terse descriptions, it remains relevant for its philosophical and psychological depth, and continues to be read as a classic tale on a universal theme.