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"Thou and thine, Hester Prynne, belong to me." With these chilling words a husband claims his wife after a two-year absence. But the child she clutches is not his, and Hester wears a scarlet "A" upon her breast, the sign of adultery visible to all. Under an assumed name, her husband begins his vindictive search for her lover, determined to expose what Hester is equally determined to protect. Defiant and proud, Hester witnesses the degradation of two very different men, as moral codes and legal imperatives painfully collide. Set in the Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, The Scarlet Letter also sheds light on the nineteenth century in which it was written, as Hawthorne explores his ambivalent relations with his Puritan forebears. The text of this edition is taken from the Centenary Edition of Hawthorne's works, the most authoritative critical edition. It includes a new, wide-ranging introduction that sheds light on the novel's autobiographical, historical, and literary contexts, a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography, and thorough notes that provide essential information on Puritan and nineteenth-century life.