Scarlet Letter Vocabulary
Does your teen complain about his “Puritan” parents because he has a midnight curfew? The Scarlet Letter might make him think twice. At its core, this American classic, penned by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story of guilt, sin, and a stringent moral code that holds all in its sway. Think that's something your teen might be into?
Here's a teen-friendly refresher course in the plot of this classic work of literature, as well as SAT vocabulary your teen can use to describe what happens for themselves.
We open on a Puritan settlement in seventeenth century Boston. It is dark, gray, and cold, so you know - typical Boston. The people assembled are judging and hurling insults at a woman they believe to have sinned. The woman up for public shaming? Hester Prynne, whose husband has sent her ahead to the little settlement and promised to join her, but is now believed to be lost at sea. That hasn't stopped Hester from somehow conceiving and having a baby, however. Now the adulteress is forced to wear the scarlet “A” for the rest of her life. And no, it doesn't stand for “awesome.”
Useful vocabulary in a conversation about Puritan Society:
- Stringent- Strict or severe
- Provincial- Unsophisticated; narrow-minded
- Dogmatic- Having stubbornly held opinions
- Vitriolic- Corrosive; strongly attacking
- Perdition- Damnation
As Hester gazes out at the sea of unfriendly faces, she recognizes an unfriendly-looking man as her long lost husband, and he doesn't look too happy, either. She is questioned by the Governor and the young Reverend Dimmesdale, but she refuses to name the baby's father and is led back to the prison. Hester’s husband introduces himself as Roger Chillingworth and tries to pursuade Hester to reveal her lover so he can take his revenge (and this is a guy who is very good at revenge). He also makes her promise not to reveal his true identity, and laughs at her current situation with such enjoyment that she accuses him of being the devil.