The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthrone

Historical and Cultural Context

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a classic novel set in the 17th century in a Puritan settlement in Massachusetts, America. It was published in 1850 but is set around 200 years earlier. Understanding the historical context of the book is important to fully grasp its themes and events.

During the 17th century, the Puritans were a religious group who believed in strict moral codes and lived a simple, devout life. They had fled from England to seek religious freedom. In the novel, the Puritan society is shown as highly judgemental and rigid.

The story revolves around Hester Prynne, a woman who is publicly shamed and forced to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her clothing. This signifies her sin of adultery and serves as a constant reminder of her wrongdoing. The community treats her as an outcast, and she faces harsh punishment for her transgression.

The historical context is essential because it helps us understand the significance of Hester's punishment. In the 17th century, the Puritans had strict laws regarding morality and punished those who violated them. Adultery was considered a severe sin and was dealt with severely.

The novel also explores themes of guilt, hypocrisy, and the nature of sin. Understanding the historical context allows readers to comprehend the societal pressures and moral values that shape the characters' actions and choices. 

a) 1650

b) 1750

c) 1850

d) 1950

a) Quakers

b) Puritans

c) Catholics

d) Protestants

a) 16th century

b) 17th century

c) 18th century

d) 19th century

5. What does the scarlet letter "A" represent in the novel?

a) Adultery

b) Altruism

c) Ambition

d) Anger

DISCUSSION:  How have societies viewed and punished cheating throughout history, and how does it affect people's lives? 

Further reading