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In 1642, Hester Prynne stands with her baby daughter Pearl before a hostile Puritan crowd in the town square of Boston, accused of adultery. When Hester refuses to reveal Pearl's father, she is sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" on her chest, a cloth brand that will label her as an adulterer, for the rest of her life. Later that day, Hester is visited by Pearl's father, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a handsome young minister with a spotless reputation. Although Arthur begs Hester to allow him to expose his "sin," Hester insists that he remain silent and serve his congregation. Unknown to Hester, her elderly husband, Dr. Roger Prynne, who had left America two years before and was presumed drowned at sea, has just returned to Boston and has witnessed her public humiliation. Roger, using the alias of Dr. Roger Chillingworth, moves in with an unsuspecting Arthur, then reveals himself to his wife. After swearing vengeance on Pearl's father, Roger forces Hester to promise that she will keep his identity a secret. Eventually Roger deduces that Arthur is Pearl's father and starts to practice a form of mental torture on him, playing on his guilt and driving him toward physical collapse. At the same time, Hester's worthiness as a mother is questioned. With Arthur's help, Hester maintains custody of the five-year-old Pearl but, ironically, must deliver her to Arthur for regular catechism lessons. Unable to endure any longer Roger's cruel treatment of Arthur, Hester begs her husband to end his revenge, but he refuses. Angry, she breaks her vow, telling a delirious Arthur about Roger's true identity and insisting that she and the minister sail away together the next day. Shortly before their departure, however, Hester learns that Roger has booked passage on the same ship. As Arthur is about to preside over his last Boston wedding, he sees Roger in the crowd and, overcome, rips off his shirt and reveals a self-inflicted "A" brand on his chest. Finally freed from his secret shame, Arthur collapses, kisses his daughter and dies.