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At once retrospective and radically new, The Scarlet Letterportrays seventeenth-century Puritan New England, a time period irreversibly encoded in the American identity. Hawthorne built one of the most incisive and devastating human dramas ever written out of a community and its outcasts: Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, whose affair leaves one emblazoned with her sin and the other distraught with hidden guilt; their daughter Pearl, born into ostracism; and Roger Chillingworth, driven to vengeance by hatred. Though these characters face a set of specifically troubling circumstances, their words and actions point to moral truths inherent in human affairs, independent of time and place.