What is the plot structure of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne?The plot structure includes the exposition, rising action, climax, denouement/falling action and resolution.

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The plot structure of The Scarlet Letter generally follows a chronological order with periodic flashbacks and with foreshadowing. The exposition sets the stage for the story of Hester Prynne by establishing the setting from which she first emerges, that of the prison in Boston during the time of the Puritan monopoly of society. A preeminent foreshadowing symbol is introduced when Hawthorne describes the rose bush and plucks "one of its flowers and present it to the reader...to symbolize some sweet moral blossom...or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow."

The rising action comprise the majority of the novel in which Hawthorne tell the twin stories of Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale and their untamed offspring (like their untamed passions for each other), Pearl. The climax is Dimmesdale heartrending scene on the scaffold where he confesses, begs forgiveness, reveals the letter "A" on his own chest, and receives a kiss from Pearl, thus freeing her and Hester from the "spell," which is followed by his death.

The falling action is Chillingworth's death; Pearl's inheritance (a touch of Chillingworth's own reparation); followed by Hester's and Pearl's trip to Europe. The resolution, a strange one, is Hester's return to Boston and her resumption of wearing the letter "A" while she also resumes her good works. At her death, the people of Boston have pity on and mercy for and gratitude toward Hester and bury her next to Arthur Dimmesdale--thereby offering their own form of reparation.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question