The Scarlet Letter is an 1850 work of romantic fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is considered to be his masterpiece and best work.
The story takes place during the summer in 17th century Boston, Massachusetts in a Puritan village. A young woman, named Hester Prynne, has been led from the town prison with her infant daughter in her arms and on the breast of her gown "a rag of scarlet cloth" that "assumed the shape of a letter." It is the uppercase letter "A." The Scarlet Letter "A" represents the act of adultery that she has committed and it is to be a symbol of her sin—a badge of shame—for all to see. A man, who was elderly and a stranger to the town, enters the crowd and asks another onlooker what's happening. The second man responds by explaining that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester's husband, who is much older than she, and whose real name is unknown, has sent her ahead to America whilst settling affairs in Europe. However, her husband does not arrive in Boston, and the consensus is that he has been lost at sea. It is apparent that, while waiting for her husband, Hester has had an affair, leading to the birth of her daughter. She will not reveal her lover's identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her subsequent public shaming, is the punishment for her sin and secrecy. On this day Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child's father.
The book contains illustrations.