Notes on Objects & Places from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Objects/Places

The Custom House: The legal point of entry at Salem, Massachusetts for cargo ships. The scene of the Introductory chapter of the Scarlet Letter, where the narrator finds the scarlet letter itself wrapped in a paper detailing the story of Hester Prynne.

The Scarlet Letter: A small piece of red cloth, with a capital A embroidered in gold on it. Made by Hester Prynne while in the jail cell where she went to give birth to her bastard child. Worn by Hester Prynne as punishment for her crime of adultery for the rest of her life. It is highly ornate and a contrast to the somber dress of the Puritan settlement.

Prison Door: The door to the prison where Hester spends her pregnancy and the three months following, prior to serving her sentence of standing on the town scaffolds. The scene of her first private meeting with Roger Chillingworth.

Wild Rose Bush: Located just outside the prison door, it is the only sign of life near the prison, and has a single red blossom on it.

Town Scaffolds: The scene of Hester’s punishment. She must stand upon the scaffolds for an hour with her baby in her arms. There she is asked to name the father of her child, but refuses.

Town Square: The center of town, which includes the town scaffolds.

Boston: The colonial city where the story of Hester Prynne takes place. Although the novel begins in the Salem Customs House, the action of the story takes place in early Boston. One of the first English settlements in the New World, and the home of the Puritans, a religious sect whose strict beliefs governed the laws and behavior of the entire population.

Salem: Home of the Salem Customs House, where the novel begins. Salem was also the site of famous witch trials, and the ancestral home of Hawthorne himself.

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