As you read Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic romance novel, you're likely to run into the word naught
(which means nothingness or failure
with another letter added. Naughty
was the fallen woman, Hester Prynne, in the eyes of the 17th-century Puritan community that condemned her adultery — and ordered her to wear a big red A as advertisement of her sin.
Naughty, too, were Hester's husband and her lover, both designed by the author to symbolize the grim underside of Puritanism: the unmarried pastor as secret sinner and the aged scholar as a "devil's handyman" consumed by revenge.
Many mentions of naughty throughout the Gothic tale center on Hester's illegitimate daughter. A sprite-like child, Pearl often draws attention to her mischievous nature, as you can see in the following passages from The Scarlet Letter:
From Chapter 7:
That look of naughty merriment was likewise reflected in the mirror, with so much breadth and intensity of effect, that it made Hester Prynne feel as if it could not be the image of her own child, but of an imp who was seeking to mould itself into Pearl's shape.
And in Chapter 10:
The child probably overheard their voices, for, looking up to the window with a bright, but naughty smile of mirth and intelligence, she threw one of the prickly burrs at the Rev. Mr. Dimmesdale. The sensitive clergyman shrank, with nervous dread, from the light missile.
And from Chapter 15:
"Mother! — Mother! — Why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?"
"Hold thy tongue, naughty child!" answered her mother, with an asperity that she had never permitted to herself before. "Do not tease me; else I shall put thee into the dark closet!"