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The Scarlet Letter Introduction

Hawthorne's indictment of Puritan society
by

Jenna Wittwer

on 30 September 2015

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Transcript of The Scarlet Letter Introduction

By Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter
An indictment of Puritan society
The Scarlet Letter
Let's use context to figure it out. Here is the word "indictment" in a sentence.
What the heck is "an indictment"?!
Setting- Boston, Massachusetts in the middle of the 17th century
You want me to read something written 300 years ago about some Puritan chick? Great!!! This will help me to expand my vocabulary. I'll also be able to challenge myself intellectually. :)
Holddd up, wait a minute...
At first The Scarlet Letter may seem like a simple story about Puritan life.
But when you look beyond the surface you see something different, something much deeper!
The Scarlet Letter was not written to be a simple story about Puritan life. Instead, it is...
SENTENCE: Nathaniel Hawthorne was ashamed of being related to Puritans, so he wrote The Scarlet Letter as an
indictment
of the society around him.
Best Guess: _________________
What information in the sentence helped you make that guess?
Protagonist- Hester Prynne: a young, beautiful Puritan woman.
First line of the novel:

"A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes."
PREDICT: Who are these people? What are they waiting for? What is behind the door?
I bet I can read your mind right now!
However, the text is actually still relevant today.
Even though it was written 300 years ago, this novel deals with issues that still matter TODAY!
Adultery
Single mothers
Individualism
Peer pressure
Gossip
Still skeptical? A modern adaptation of The Scarlet Letter called Easy A, starring Emma Stone, was produced in 2010. The movie expresses the same themes as the text.
Symbolism
So what is this novel all about?
And I know you're not thinking this...
So obviously, "A" represents "adulterer," but why a scarlet red? What do you think?
How might the following cover images be symbolic?
The Scarlet Letter Preface (A Frame Story)

The introduction provides a frame for the main narrative of The Scarlet Letter. The nameless narrator, who shares quite a few traits with the book’s author, takes a post as the “chief executive officer,” or surveyor, of the Salem Custom House. (“Customs” are the taxes paid on foreign imports into a country; a “customhouse” is the building where these taxes are paid.)

The narrator spends his days at the customhouse trying to amuse himself because few ships come to Salem anymore. One rainy day he discovers some documents in the building’s unoccupied second story. Looking through the pile, he notices a manuscript that is bundled with a scarlet, gold-embroidered piece of cloth in the shape of the letter “A.” The narrator examines the scarlet badge and holds it briefly to his chest, but he drops it because it seems to burn him. He then reads the manuscript. It is the work of one Jonathan Pue, who was a customs surveyor a hundred years earlier. An interest in local history led Pue to write an account of events taking place in the middle of the seventeenth century—a century before Pue’s time and two hundred years before the narrator’s.

The narrator has already mentioned his unease about attempting to make a career out of writing. He believes that his Puritan ancestors, whom he holds in high regard, would find it frivolous and “degenerate.” Nevertheless, he decides to write a fictional account of Hester Prynne’s experiences. It will not be factually precise, but he believes that it will be faithful to the spirit and general outline of the original. While working at the customhouse, surrounded by uninspiring men, the narrator finds himself unable to write. When a new president is elected, he loses his politically appointed job and, settling down before a dim fire in his parlor, begins to write his “romance,” which becomes the body of The Scarlet Letter.
The novel has a "Frame Story"
There is a story within a story
In what ways does this text seem similar to The Crucible?
Setting
Purpose
Structure
Full transcript