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The Scarlet Letter

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					The Scarlet Letter




          by
 Nathaniel Hawthorne
      Surveyor of The Custom
•
                          House
    Having contributed to the
    Democratic Review, and
    once the Democrats were in
    power in the mid 1840s,
    Hawthorne was appointed
    surveyor of the
    customhouse of Salem, an
    experience which aided
    him in writing the
    Introduction to The
    Scarlet Letter
• Hawthorne found a piece of     Custom House in Derby Street,
  cloth with an A on it and          Salem, Massachusetts
  used it as the major symbol
  of his novel about the
  Puritan lifestyle
      The Romantic Hawthorne
•   Hawthorne is considered a writer   •   Hawthorne is haunted by what is
    of the Literary Movement known         obscure, dangerous, and the
    as Romanticism                         confines of good and evil, by
•   Romantics concern themselves           what is abnormal, and social
    with the soul, stress emotions         relations
    over reason, show an               •   It is what is mysterious in the
    appreciation for nature, and           soul that attracts him
    focus on the exceptional figure    •   All of his stories are about
    and his passions and inner             people’s crimes—or
    struggles                              misunderstood virtue or
•   All Hawthorne’s work is one            misfortune—which, created by
    form or another of ―handling           themselves, leaves them in a
    sin‖                                   worse companionship than
•   He was intensely interested in         solitude
    Puritanism as a historic           •   The soul becomes the individual’s
    phenomenon                             ―best friend‖ because the person
                                           is shunned by everyone else
The 411 on The Scarlet
        Letter in 17th Century
           • Set
                 Boston
               • Puritan code of life
               • Main characters
                  –   Hester Prynne
                  –   Pearl Prynne
                  –   Arthur Dimmesdale
                  –   Roger Chillingworth
               • Novel spans a total of
                 seven years
               • The Scarlet Letter
                 as a SATIRE
Themes in The Scarlet Letter
1. Alienation—the character      4. Pride—Hawthorne treats
   is in a state of isolation       pride as evil; spiritual
   because of self-cause, or        pride, intellectual, and
   societal cause, or a             physical
   combination of both           5. Allegory—each character
2. Initiation—involves the          is a labeled equivalent of
   attempts of an alienated         ―something bigger‖
   character to get rid of his   6. Other themes—individual
   isolated condition               vs. society, self-fulfillment
3. Problem of Guilt —a              vs. accommodation or
   character’s sense of guilt       frustration; hypocrisy vs.
   forced by the Puritan            integrity, love vs. hate,
   lifestyle/heritage or by         exploitation vs. hurting,
   society; guilt vs.               and fate vs. free will
   innocence
                  Symbols
•   Weeds
•   Rose-bush
•   Flowers
•   Prison
•   Cemetery
•   Scaffold
•   Town beadle
•   Letter A
•   Pearl
•   Sunshine
•   Brook
Chapter 1: The Prison Door
                     • Exposition and setting of
                       novel
                     • First two edifices built—
                       foreshadowing or strict
                       Puritan code?
                     • Rosebush, weed, and other
                       flowers grow ―by chance‖
                     • First few symbols
                        –   Cemetery
                        –   Prison
                        –   Weeds
   The Prison Door      –   Rosebush
                        –   flowers
Chapter 2: The Market Place
• 1st of 3 scaffold scenes
• The scorns of the women
• Introduction of Hester
  Prynne holding her
  daughter, Pearl—image
  created by Hawthorne is
  like the Madonna and child
  (IRONY & SATIRE)
• Hester’s beauty
• Introduction of the
  scarlet letter
• Reveries of long ago
• A familiar stranger
One ―might have seen in this beautiful woman…an object to
remind him of the image of Divine Maternity…‖ (53).
Chapter 3: The Recognition
             • Hester recognizes her
               husband
             • Where has he been these
               two years?
             • The riddle begins to
               consume Chillingworth
               already
             • Introduction of the
               magistrates and their plea
               for Hester to announce her
               partner in crime
                – what would they have done
                  to him?
Chapter 4: The Interview
            • Why doesn’t
              Chillingworth want to
              kill Hester and her
              child?
            • Chillingworth as the
              leech = pun
            • Chillingworth admits it
              was both of their faults
            • Hester holds two secrets
            • Hester asks if
              Chillingworth is the
              Black Man
     Chapter 5: Hester at Her
             Needle
• Hester is released from            • Hester must support herself
  prison but decides to stay in        and Pearl, so she sews
  Boston for three reasons:          • Even the wealthy people
   – She feels drawn to the place      who once scolded her pay
     that marked a great change        her for her expertise with
     or growth in her life
                                       the needle
   – The gentleman who fathered
     her baby still resides in       • Hester is allowed to sew
     Boston                            everything—but a wedding
   – She feels she must repent of      dress
     her sins by staying and doing
                                     • In her spare time, Hester
     what she can for forgiveness
                                       gives her time to charities
                 Chapter 6: Pearl
•   Hester named her baby Pearl, ―as
    being of great price,--purchased
    with all she had…‖ (82).
•   Pearl was called a sprite, an imp,
    an elf—all alluding to her
    expected terror-like behavior
    being the product of sin
•   Hester admitted that the only
    times she felt as peace was when
    Pearl was asleep
•   Hester knows that Pearl was
    given to her to remind her of her
    sin; Pearl saw to it that her
    mother ―paid the price‖
•   Is she a devil-child or just an
    innocent product of love?
Chapter 7: The Governor’s
           Hall
             • Hester is afraid that they
               will take Pearl away from
               her
             • Hester understands that
               Pearl is her punishment and
               gift from God—to remind
               her of her sin and her love
             • Irony & satire: the
               governor’s hall is exquisite
               when the Puritan code
               strictly forbids ―earthly
               treasures‖
 Chapter 8: The Elf-Child & the
            Minister
• Governor Bellingham
  affirms that they will take
  Pearl from Hester
• Hester turns to Reverend
  Dimmesdale for help
• Dimmesdale points out that
  the child was sent by God
  as a reminder of her sin
• If Hester can ―turn the
  child around,‖ then Pearl
  may just help Hester enter
  Heaven as well
       Chapter 9: The Leech
• Chillingworth is revered for   • The two begin to live in the
  his skills as a physician;       same house
  Dimmesdale is revered for      • The townspeople notice a
  his sermons that grow            big change in
  stronger each Sunday, even       Chillingworth’s appearance
  though his health                and begin to gossip that
  deteriorates each day            either Satan or Satan’s
• The townspeople beg              emissary has now resided
  Dimmesdale to take               along with their godly
  Chillingworth as his             Reverend Dimmesdale and
  physician, and the reverend      fear for their pastor
  finally accepts
• Chillingworth grows
  suspicious of Dimmesdale’s
  unexpected deteriorating
  health
Chapter 10: The Leech& His
          Patient
             • Chillingworth and
               Dimmesdale discuss guilt
             • Chillingworth urges
               Dimmesdale to share his
               guilt, but the latter refuses
             • Dimmesdale admits that
               Hester is better off than her
               secret lover, for he believes
               it is ―better for the sufferer
               to be free to show his pain,
               as [Hester], than to cover it
               all up in his heart‖ (124).
             • Chillingworth ―unravels‖
               the truth
Chapter 11: The Interior of a
           Heart
• Dimmesdale ―achieved a         • The townspeople, upon
  brilliant popularity in his      hearing him speak boldly
  sacred office‖                   about his own
• All of his sermons hinted at     wrongdoings, did nothing
  his own sins but he never        more but revere him all the
  confessed outwardly              more
• Townspeople thought he         • We find out that he whips
  was too godly and were           himself with a scourge,
  humbled by him                   keeps vigils each night, and
• They deemed Dimmesdale           fasts—all of which have led
  to be ―a miracle of              to his deteriorating health
  holiness‖                      • He finally realized he could
• Dimmesdale tried to confess      do something about his
  but never could                  guilt
Chapter 12: The Minister’s Vigil
•   Sleepwalking, Dimmesdale leads       •   Chillingworth sees the three and
    himself to the scaffold—2nd              smiles devilishly—and
    major scaffold scene                     Dimmesdale declares his hate for
•   He utters a cry—for repentance           the physician (isn’t it a sin to
    or to try to call out to others so       hate?)
    they could see him up there?         •   Pearl asks one of the most
•   We know that seven years have            important questions to
    passed since Hester first stood up       Dimmesdale—does she know
    on the scaffold                          who he is?
•   Only two people heard                •   The ―A‖ in the sky made of
    Dimmesdale’s cry                         crimson light—could that have
•   Governor Winthrop had just               been the result of their ―electric
    passed away                              chain‖?
•   Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale        •   The townspeople ignorantly
    form ―an electric chain‖—of              translate it to be ―A‖ for Angel—
    what?                                    for Governor Winthrop’s soul
                                             rising up to Heaven
                                         •   The glove could NOT have been
                                             Dimmesdale’s! Only Satan could
                                             have put it there to mock the
                                             Puritan’s leader!
 Chapter 13: Another View of
            Hester
• Hester has lost her
  beauty, for ―there
  seemed to be no
  longer anything in
  Hester’s face for Love
  to dwell upon
• Hester’s ―A‖ now
  means ―Able‖—for         • Hester makes it her ultimate duty
  she gave so kindly to      to save Dimmesdale from
  the poor and became        Chillingworth—she thinks she
  such a good listener       owes it to him
  that all went to her
  with their troubles
    Chapter 14: Hester and the
•
                              Physicianhe had died at once!‖
    ―But the former aspect of an   • ―Better
    intellectual and studious man, calm         •   ―…A mortal man, with once a
    and quiet, which was what she best              human heart, has become a fiend for
    remembered in him, had altogether               his especial torment!‖
    vanished…‖                                  •   ―Hast thou not tortured him
•   ―Ever and anon, too, there came a               enough?‖
    glare of red light out of his eyes; as if   •   ―No—no! He ha but increased the
    the old man’s soul were on fire, and            debt!‖
    kept on smoldering duskily within
    his breast…‖                                •   ―There is no good for him,—no
•   ―In a word, old Roger Chilliingworth            good for me,—no good for thee!
    was a striking evidence of man’s                There is no good for little Pearl!
    faculty of transforming himself into            There is no path to guide us out of
    a devil…‖                                       this dismal maze!‖
•   ―Your clutch is on his life, and you        •   ―There might be good for thee, and
    cause him to die daily a living death;          thee alone, since thou hast been
    and still he knows you not.‖                    deeply wronged, and hast it at thy
                                                    will to pardon.‖
•   ―But for my aid, his life would have        •   ―By thy first step awry thou didst
    burned away in torments, within the             plant the germ of evil; but since that
    first two years after the perpetration          moment, it has all been a dark
    of his crime and thine….‖                       necessity….It is our fate. Let the
                                                    black flower blossom as it may!‖
      Chapter 15: Hester and
               Pearl
• Hester admits that she, too,    • Pearl creates her own letter
  hates Chillingworth and           ―A‖ out of eel-grass and
  realizes that it was he           asks her mother what it
  ―[had] done [her] worse           means
  wrong‖ for having forced        • Hester realizes that Pearl,
  her to marry him even             now seven, may actually be
  when she had not loved            able to learn from her
  him                               mistake if Hester teaches
• Pearl is described to be very     her what the ―A‖
  happy in nature, as if she is     symbolizes
  one with it. Could it be that   • Pearl makes the connection
  she is a product of nature        between Hester’s ―A‖ and
  rather than sin?                  Dimmesdale’s hand over his
                                    heart—but does she really
                                    know that the two are
                                    connected?
  Chapter 16: A Forest Walk
• Pearl points out to Hester       • Pearl asks Hester if Hester
  that the sunshine runs             has ever met the Black
  away from her mother but           Man, and Hester answers
  not from her; Pearl says it is     that she did once—and the
  because of the ―A‖ on              scarlet letter is his mark
  Hester’s bosom                   • Pearl is compared to the
• Characterization of Pearl—         brook
  she is devilishly happy and      • Pearl also questions
  does what she wants; she           whether Dimmesdale has
  does not seem to be afraid         met the Black Man, and if
  of anything                        that is the reason why he
                                     always covers his heart
                                     with hand. Does she
                                     know?
    Chapter 17: The Pastor & His
             Parishioner
•   This is the first time that Hester   •   Dimmesdale asks Hester if she
    and Dimmesdale have been alone           has found peace? Why is this the
    in seven or more years!                  first question he asks her after
•   It is said that they ―questioned         they have become familiar with
    one another’s actual and bodily          each other again?
    existence‖—a romantic quality        •   When Hester finally musters the
    that Hawthorne inserts for               courage to tell Dimmesdale who
    emotional effect. Were they              Chillingworth really is, he blames
    really standing apart a few feet         her! WHAT IRONY!
    from one another? Was it a           •   Hester is the man in this
    dream?                                   relationship; Dimmesdale even
•   Dimmesdale’s cold hand                   admits that she is stronger than
    touching Hester’s cold hand              him—sort of like Romeo and
    somehow led them ―back to                Juliet
    earth‖                               •   Hester gives Dimmesdale hope
      Chapter 18: A Flood of
            Sunshine
• The cowardly and weakly         • Her beauty came back
  Dimmesdale is afraid to           through the ―magic‖
  start anew ALONE!                 (romanticism) of the past
• Hester, still pathetically in     hour
  love with the cowardly          • Does she regret what she
  minister—a leader in his          did? Has she ever
  community, a ―godly‖ and          demonstrated remorse in
  highly revered man—               any way? Why does she
  decides she and Pearl will        love Dimmesdale so much?
  go with him                     • Dimmesdale confesses to
• Hester unclasps the scarlet       being afraid of children,
  letter from her bosom and         even Pearl
  threw it into the distance      • In the last scene of the
• The ―burden of shame‖ was         chapter, Pearl is described
  lifted from her spirit—           to be in one with nature.
  ―exquisite relief‖                Why is this important?
Chapter 19: The Child at the
         Brookside
• Compare the forest, as
  described by
  Hawthorne, to the town
• Why do Hester and
  Dimmesdale find
  comfort in the forest?
  Why does Pearl relate
  so well with nature? Is
  there a connection?
Chapter 20: The Minister in a
            Maze
•   Hester and Dimmesdale decide to       •   Dimmesdale feels a heavy burden
    leave in four days’ time—after            lifted from his soul—and he
    the Election Sermon                       begins to think of many sinful
•   Dimmesdale is happy that he can           thoughts. Why is this important?
    ―leave‖ his office after the          •   Name the three things he has
    Election Sermon                           thought about doing that are
•   Hester has booked passage to              considered out of character for
    Bristol for herself and two others;       him.
    the captain has allowed her to        •   Mistress Hibbins offers
    board for her good works with             Dimmesdale a personal
    the Sisters of Charity                    introduction to her master.
                                          •   Dimmesdale gains confidence to
                                              tell Chillingworth that the
                                              physician is no longer needed in
                                              the minister’s home
    Chapter 21: New England
            Holiday
• At the start of the Election   • At the end of the chapter,
  Sermon and celebration,          Hester receives disturbing
  Hester and Pearl wait for        news that an additional
  Dimmesdale                       passenger has also secured
• The town is in a festive         passage onto the ship
  mood for the inauguration        bound for Bristol—and this
  of the new governor              person claims to be ―of
• Pearl notices how strange        [Hester’s] party‖
  Dimmesdale’s physical          • Will Chillingworth ever
  features look                    unleash his clutch on
                                   Dimmesdale?
 Chapter 22: The Procession
• Hester and Pearl watch as    • Hester starts to feel the
  Dimmesdale and the             weight of the scarlet letter
  magistrates walk past, and     on her bosom, again—even
  Hester feels a ―dreary         at ―its final hour‖—when
  influence come over her‖—      she was to fling it off
  foreshadowing                  forever and live a new life
• Dimmesdale does not look       with her family
  at them—as if he doesn’t     • Hawthorne creates a great
  know them                      contrast between the
                                 minister and the wearer of
                                 the scarlet letter—even
                                 though they really are as
                                 one
    Chapter 23: The Revelation
•   Dimmesdale looks like he is near    •   The scaffold is the only place
    death; he knows it as well              where Dimmesdale could have
•   Passing through the scaffold—           escaped from Chillingworth—is
    where Hester and Pearl have             it a place of punishment or
    planted themselves as they              redemption?
    watched the magistrates pass to     •   Dimmesdale confesses and tears
    the festival, Dimmesdale stops at       open his ministerial band to show
    their side                              his own ―A‖—carved in his flesh!
•   Alas, doing what he should have     •   Pearl’s tears broke the spell that
    done seven years ago,                   she was born with; she would
    Dimmesdale decides to take his          grow up to love and be loved—
    rightful place on the scaffold          like a normal being
•   Chillingworth reacts quicky,        •   Dimmesdale gives Hester no lie
    grabs the minister’s arm, and           about their after-life
    questions whether it is really      •   Did he really love her? Or were
    something the latter wants to do        they destined to go their separate
                                            ways at the moment of their
                                            adultery?
            Chapter 24: Conclusion
•   Lots of satire in this chapter        •   The leech had nothing left to
•   There are many ―interpretations‖          leech on to, so he died within a
    as to the death of the revered            year
    minister                              •   Ironically, Chillingworth
     – Some believe that what was told        bequeathed all of his treasures in
       to the reader actually happened        both Worlds to little Pearl
     – Others believed that the scarlet   •   Hester is claimed to be the
       letter had been a form of poison       interest and love of an unknown
       given to Dimmesdale by                 inhabitant from another land
       Chillingworth
     – Yet others believed that the ―A‖
                                          •   Pearl is married and happy
       grew ―out‖ of Dimmesdale’s         •   Why do you think Hester chose
       heart and guilt                        to go back to the little cottage and
     – The ignorant ones claimed to           keep her ―A‖ stitched to her
       never have seen the ―A‖ at all,        clothing even after the death of
       nor did they actually hear a           Dimmesdale?
       confession; they agreed that the   •   In the end, a new grave was
       minister had claimed all those
       things to make a parable of his        made next to an old sunken
       life!                                  one—yet there was a space
                                              between the two, as if the two
                                              had no right to intermingle…