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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Rebirth

Falling Stage

Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale are both Guilty with a capital "G," but only one of them is getting publicly shamed, and—spoiler—it's not the one with the "Reverend" in front of his name. How is this the falling stage? Well, Booker tells us that, in the Falling Stage, a young hero or heroine falls under the shadow of the dark power. We're thinking guilt—and its human embodiment in Chillingworth—definitely qualifies.

Recession Stage

During the Recession Stage, things go reasonably well for our intrepid hero(ine). Hester's able to make a living sewing, and Dimmesdale gains the respect of the entire town—along with a new BFF, Robert Chillingworth.

Imprisonment Stage

Things might be going well enough for Hester, but they're not working out too well for Dimmesdale, who's imprisoned by his guilt. Booker tells us that the imprisonment is a "living death"—but for Dimmesdale, it's, well, a dying death: guilt is literally killing him.

Nightmare Stage

There's a brief moment when it looks like things might cheer up for our unhappy couple, when Hester and Dimmesdale decide to run away together just as soon as he gives his final, blowout sermon. Psyche! It turns out Chillingworth is planning to follow them to England, where he'll continue to persecute them like the crazy stalker we've come to know and love.

Rebirth Stage

Dimmesdale finally confesses his sin and… dies. Wait, what? Well, considering that he's now going to be reborn into Christ and whatnot, we definitely think it counts as a rebirth. Meanwhile, Hester gets a much more straightforward rebirth when she starts a new life with Pearl in England. But that's not all: she gets another rebirth at the end of the novel, when she comes back to live in the colony as a wise, respected old woman.

Happy ending?

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