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The Scarlet Letter Project
Transcript of The Scarlet Letter Project
Key Symbols in
The Scarlet Letter
Light and shadow
The rosebush and the prison door
The letter "A"
Colors: red, white, gray, and clear
Plot and Major Events
• Hester embroiders the letter "A" on her chest
• Hester Prynne stands on the scaffold with 3-month-old daughter, Pearl, to be judged by the town
• Hester is antagonized and questioned for the name of Pearl's father by the clergymen and Dimmesdale.
• Roger Chillingworth comes to see Hester, reveals he true identity, and tells his plans for the father of Pearl.
• Hester is released from prison, goes to live at the end of the town and starts to gain more credit from the town's people by making a living by sewing.
• Seven years past. Dimmesdale reveals that he is Pearl's father at night, and Chillingworth sees Dimmesdale's confession.
• Chillingworth continues to try and make Dimmesdale suffer.
• Hester tells Dimmesdale that Chillingworth knows that Dimmesdale is Pearl's father and has been destroying him
• Hester and Dimmesdale devise a plan to run-away.
• Dimmesdale and Hester go into the forest, and Dimmesdale realizes that he needs to confront his sin.
• Dimmesdale confesses his sin and claims both Hester and Pearl on the scaffold in broad daylight. Pearl finally embraces Dimmesdale.
• Dimmesdale is praised by the people for confessing his sin.
• Dimmesdale dies.
• Pearl leaves home, gets married, and lives successfully.
• Chillingworth dies and gives some property to Pearl.
• Hester goes back to Boston.
The Scarlet Letter
Light and Shadow
representation of truth, honesty, and purity
Pearl is a truthful soul who attracts the light because of her purity and innocence.
: representation of sin and secrecy
People run the shadows of the forest to do things in secret and expose their sinful nature.
“When the light of the glimmering lantern had faded quite away, the minster discovered, by the faintness which came over him, that the last few moments had been a crisis of terrible anxiety,” (103)
The Scarlet Letter takes place during the middle of the 17th century in Boston, Massachusetts.
The main characters live in a small Puritan town where everyone is supposed to be the holiest of holies.
Representation of public humiliation. This was the place of societal judgment. The person standing on the scaffold took responsibility for their sin and wrong doings.
-Dimmesdale has finally played the price for his sin and Chillingworth can no longer have hold on him.
“Meagre, indeed, and cold, was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for, from such bystanders at the scaffold,” (35).
The Rosebush and the Prison Door
representation of nature, mercy, and the beauty that comes from sin.
The Prison door
represents the corruption of the Puritan society in which the finger was always being pointed at some one. The rust of the bolts showed the frequency of judgment and ridicule.
“But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gens, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went,” (33)
The prison door either lets the prisoners out or locks prisoners in.
“the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front,” (33)
The Letter “A”
The “A” represented sin and the accepting of the responsibility of sin. Later in the novel, the A represented being “able”.
It is also a recognition of sin that connects Pearl, Hester, and Dimmesdale.
Transforms into beauty
“Felix Cupla”- happy flaw (paradox-conceptual contradiction)-fall from grace
Pearl is the happy flaw
“On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter 'A.' It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony,” (37)
Colors: Gray, Red, White, Clear
: dullness and simplicity
: rich color that sometimes symbolize love, blood, violence, sin, danger, anger, obsession, etc.
: purity and innocence
: being able to be looked through
represented a place where secrets came out and nature control. There was also mystery in the forest. The forests holds the secrets of the people.
“But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rosebush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him.” (33-34)
represented hypocrisy, deception, the enforcement of institutional law, gossip, and judgment by the masses.
“’If the hussy stood up for judgment before us live, that are now here in a knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worship magistrates have awarded? Marry, I trow not!’” (35)
They are representations of truth.
‘"Mother,’ said little Pearl, ‘the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself because it is afraid of something on your bosom,’” (126).
"On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony," (37)
“Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. . . . It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!” (126)
"Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor for ever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it," (175)
"Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years’ cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am! Had I one friend,—or were it my worst enemy!—to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby. Even thus much of truth would save me! But, now, it is all falsehood!—all emptiness!—all death!” (131-132)
'So Roger Chillingworth—the man of skill, the kind and friendly physician—strove to go deep into his patient’s bosom, delving among his principles, prying into his recollections, and probing every thing with a cautious touch, like a treasure-seeker in a dark cavern. Few secrets can escape an investigator, who has opportunity and license to undertake such a quest, and skill to follow it up. A man burdened with a secret should especially avoid the intimacy of his physician," (85).
○ After having committed a sin, one either decides to acknowledge the fact that he/she has sinned, to hide from the sin, or dwell upon it and continue to sin.
○ When one has repented and gained redemption from a sin, he/she can gain the beauty that comes from sin.
§ Eg: Hester committed adultery, but she gained Pearl out of the sin.
○ Hawthorne suggests that in Boston, the Puritans were more worried about their reputation opposed to doing the right thing
○ Puritans in this society were consumed with power and being thought of as a saint, but the irony is that none of them were really saints because they were too prideful to admit their sins and try to turn away from the wrong that they committed.
• Human Condition
○ Physiognomy -person's facial features or expression, especially when regarded as indicative of character or ethnic origin.
§ Ignominy-public shame or disgrace
□ Dimmesdale expresses the shame of sin and guilt both internally and externally.
D.H. Lawrence "CHAPTER 7 Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter"
"The Scarlet Letter isn't a pleasant, pretty romance. It is a sort of parable, an earthly story with a hellish meaning.
All the time there is this split in the American art and art- consciousness. On the top it is as nice as pie, goody-goody and lovey-dovey. Like Hawthorne being such a blue-eyed darling, in life, and Longfellow and the rest such sucking- doves. Hawthorne's wife said she 'never saw him in time', which doesn't mean she saw him too late. But always in the 'frail effulgence of eternity'.
Serpents they were. Look at the inner meaning of their art and see what demons they were.
You must look through the surface of American art, and see the inner diabolism of the symbolic meaning. Otherwise it is all mere childishness.
That blue-eyed darling Nathaniel knew disagreeable things in his inner soul. He was careful to send them out in disguise.
Always the same. The deliberate consciousness of Americans so fair and smooth-spoken, and the under-consciousness so devilish. Destroy! destroy! destroy! hums the under-consciousness. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and- produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction under- neath. Until such time as it will have to hear."
Bruce Ingham Granger "Arthur Dimmesdale as Tragic Hero"
"Dimmesdale must journey on for a time "in a maze" before he feels ready to act in a way that will satisfy Pearl's demand. As he returns to the town he is incited at every step "to do some strange, wild, wicked thing or other...." Hawthorne offers the following explanation for his nightmarish encounters with people in the town: "Tempted by a dream of happiness, he had yielded himself with deliberate choice, as he had never done before, to what he knew was deadly sin. And the infectious poison of that sin had been thus rapidly diffused throughout his moral system." But now an epiphany is at hand. Seated before his unfinished sermon, he is ready and eager to follow the course of action Pearl has long been urging; contrite, he draws back from the state of moral anarchy into which harkening to Hester's advice had momentarily plunged him, and for the first time knows the full meaning of the verse in Genesis, "In the image of God made he man." "...flinging the already written pages of the Election Sermon into the fire, he forthwith began another, which he wrote with such an impulsive flow of thought and emotion, that he fancied himself inspired; and only wondered that Heaven should see fit to transmit the grand and solemn music of its oracles through so foul an organ-pipe as he." The man who had long looked down from his pulpit and seen his "flock hungry for the truth, and listening to my words as if a tongue of Pentecost were speaking" has found his tongue at last. Feeling himself that "heaven-ordained apostle" his parishioners long imagined him to be, he is enabled to pen a vision of the "high and glorious destiny for the newly gathered people of the Lord.'"
Michael J. Colacurcio
New Essays on 'The Scarlet Letter'
"'The Custom-House' is mainly devoted to describing Hawthorne's experience as Surveyor of Customs at Salem from 1846 to 1849. It tells the story – which Hawthorne, of course, made up – of what he found, one day, in the attic of the Custom – House: a frayed Scarlet A, made of cloth, and a manuscript summarizing the life of the woman who wore the letter, one Hester Prynne. We are told that the manuscript was the work of Hawthorne's eighteenth-century predecessor, Surveyor Pue, and we are assured (as readers had been assured of the historical truth of many a work of fiction) that the fax he gathered provide the bias of the story of
The Scarlet Letter
. For this reason, Hawthorne writes, his "Custom-House" preface has "a certain propriety, . . .as explaining how a large portion of the following pages came into my possession, and as offering proof of the authenticity of [the] narrative therein contained." His own "true position," he adds, is merely that of "editor, or very little more," of
The Scarlet Letter
*Prezi does not allow hanging indents, so I screen-shotted my work cited from a Word document.
The main characters in
The Scarlet Letter
, the protagonist, is the town "harlot" and source of entertainment as she stands of the scaffold to be criticized and judged for her sin of adultery. Even though she endures great ridicule and isolation, she keeps the father of her sin-born child, Pearl, a mystery to the town and refuses to disclose his name. Hester is of nature, as shown by her beauty and long, luscious hair that magnifies her sensuality and wild nature. She wears the scarlet "A", beautiful embroidered by her, on her chest to array that she takes full responsibility for her sin. Throughout the novel, she continues to stay to her natural nature and take responsibility of her actions and later gains strength from that "A" that once shamed her.
, the antagonist in
The Scarlet Letter
, is the physician who came to Boston after being held as a captive to the Indians or, as the Puritans called them, devils of the forest. Chillingworth is also discovered to be Hester's husband who was thought to be dead. Once he comes to reveal himself to Hester and learns about Pearl, Chillingworth vows to find out who the father is and destroy him. Chillingworth genuinely wanted Hester to love him, but jealousy and anger overpowered him, resulting in his main goal to make Pearl's father suffer by using his job as a physician to manipulate and bring suffering to the father.
is the elite reverend in Boston. Everyone in the town sees him with such high regards and a holy man. Ironically, he is the father of Pearl. Unlike Hester, Dimmesdale is unable to confront his sin due to his lack of courage and strength and fear of losing his reputation. Dimmesdale suffers from the guilt of letting Hester endure all the ridicule for seven year, as shown by his physiognomy. The burning "A" on his chest leads to his growth of guilt and sickness from the poisoning of Roger Chillingworth. The guilt of sin and poison from Chillingworth lead to Dimmesdale's death.
, who truly embodies her name, is Hester and Dimmesdale's daughter born from their sin of adultery. She has an innocence and purity that makes her a source of light in Hester's life. She is the epitome of what is right even though she had born out of sin. Like Hester, Pearl is a child of nature. She also signifies the beauty that comes from sin.