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The Scarlet Letter Kenyon 2
Transcript of The Scarlet Letter Kenyon 2
by: Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter
-The people in the town see Roger Chillingworth's arrival as heaven's miracle, because it is believed that he would cure Reverend Dimmesdale's illness. People thought he was going to die soon because his voice had a sad aspect in it, and he was seen putting his hand over his heart, indicating pain. So, Chillingworth stayed with Dimmesdale. While doing so, Chillingworth asks Dimmesdale many questions that, although not directly, inquire about Hester, her child, and its father. Chillingworth was trying to get Dimmesdale to confess. Dimmesdale does not recognize that Chillingworth is actually his enemy.
-Hester Prynne begins her forever enduring punishment of wearing a scarlet letter on her clothes, but before she is released from prison, she has to stand on a platform that is in the middle of the market place for three hours. While standing on the scaffold with her newborn, who is described as being borne out of sin, Hester does not take her eyes off of a man, who is a stranger to the town, that is amongst the town gossipers. This stranger is revealed as Hester's husband, the man who she had betrayed. This man creates a new identity for himslef by saying his name is Roger Chillingworth telling people that he is a physician. He visits Hester while in jail, and has her promise to not tell anyone of his true character.
-During their talk in the forest, Dimmesdale confesses that he thinks Hester is lucky to wear the scarelt letter so that everyone can see it, and Hester tells Dimmesdale about Roger Chillingworth. Then, Hester suggests that they run away together, and Dimmesdale agrees to it. Although Pearl is the thing that unites Hseter and Dimmesdale, she does not show Dimmesdale affection, and he is embarrassed. After the forest meeting, Dimmesdale has more energy and can breathe easier, and Hester got them a ride on a ship headed for Bristol.
- The rosebush represents the concept of "grace" or forgiveness. In Christian thought, grace is "unmerited mercy," and forgiveness of sins even though forgiveness is undeserved. Since the prison is a place of darkness and sin, the beauty of a wild rose bush growing in such an unexpected place is a symbol of grace. We encounter this prison door and this rosebush in the very first pages of The Scarlet Letter, and both objects seem to tell us that, even in a place of such cold and rigid law, there is hope and there is love.
Pearl, Hester’s daughter, is a symbol of all that Hester gave up when she committed adultery and gave up her place in Puritan society. Hester has gone through a lot of critiscm as a result of giving birth to a Pearl. She lives in punishment because of Pearl, and that is why she loves Pearl so much. The name “Pearl” makes us think of precious jewels, and there is something very regal about Pearl. We know that she becomes a great and wealthy heiress. The name “Pearl” also reminds us of the fact that pearls come from oysters, and oysters are hard to pry open at times. Pearl definitely mysterious and full of mischief.
~Born: July 4, 1804 in Salem Massachusetts
~Had two sisters, Elizabeth and Maria Louisa
~Died: May 19, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire
~Married Sophia Peabody in 1842. Had three kids, Una, Julian, and Rose
~Went to Bowdoin College
In Chapter 1 on page 43 Hawthorne describes the surroundings of the jail, "But on the other side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, 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 his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind."
The red mark on Dimmesdale’s chest in the shape of the letter A is the physical manifestation of the minister’s guilt. We are never given an exact description of this mark or its origins, but Dimmesdale tells Hester it is from God. Although he refuses to confess and be punished, his sin ultimately marks his body more permanently than Hester’s scarlet letter made from thread does.
The Red Mark on Dimmesdale's Chest
~Hester wears the scarlet letter on her chest, as punishment. The letter “A” signifies that Hester is an “adulterer.” While her husband was still in England she had an affair with Minister Arthur Dimmesdale in America. Hester is passionate but also strong; she endures years of shame and scorn for the sin. She is an expert seamstress and loves her daughter, Pearl.
~Hester’s daughter and has a moody, mischievous spirit and an ability to perceive things that others do not. She is clever and always asks why Mr. Dimmesdale has his hand over his heart. The townspeople say that she barely seems human and spread rumors that her unknown father is actually the Devil. She is wise far beyond her years, frequently engaging in ironic play having to do with her mother’s scarlet letter.
~ Hester’s former husband in disguise. He arrived in Boston in time to see Hester on the scaffold in front of the crowd. He is a scholar and uses his knowledge to disguise himself as a doctor, intent on discovering and tormenting Hester’s anonymous lover, Dimmesdale. Chillingworth is self-absorbed and both physically and psychologically monstrous. His single-minded pursuit of retribution reveals him to be the most malevolent character in the novel.
~A young man who achieved fame in England as a theologian and then immigrated to America. In a moment of weakness, he and Hester became lovers. Although he will not confess it publicly, he is the father of her child. He deals with his guilt by tormenting himself physically and psychologically, developing a heart condition as a result. His commitments to his church are in constant conflict with his feelings of sinfulness and need to confess.
-Hester names her baby Pearl. Unlike most babies who first see the eyes or smile of their mother, Pearl first notices her mother's scarlet letter. Neighboring townspeople think of Pearl as a demon offspring. In a scene where Hester and Pearl are in Governor Bellingham's hall, Pearl is described as the scarlet letter brought to life.
-In these beginning chapters, the reader is told that Hester Prynne had committed adultery, and as a punishment, she must wear a scarlet "A." As soon as she is released from prison, she will forever be an example of what sin can do to a person. This is a defining moment in Hester's life because she undergoes a dramatic change. Now, she lives a life of shame, and the scarlet letter will be associated with her, even on her tombstone.
-While in the governor's hall, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth are seen as friends. Also in this scene, the reader first gets the impression that Dimmesdale is Pearl's father and that Chillingworth is catching on to this too. When Pearl and Hester are leaving, Pearl is portrayed as Hester's savior from Satan's trap. This happens continually throughout the story.
-One night in May, Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold and stands on it. Soon he is accompanied by Pearl and Hester. Pearl asks Dimmesdale if he would confess, and Dimmesdale replies that he will on judgement dau but not while on earth. Then, a meteror appears in the sky, and Dimmesdale sees the letter A marked our in lines of dull red light in the sky. After this, Chillingworth shows up and takes Dimmesdale home. The next day, Dimmesdale had convinced himself it had been just a dream until Chillingworth asks him about the incident. Also, his psrishoners were talking about it, and they had interpreted the A in the sky to mean angel, for Revernend Winthrop who had died that night. Dimmesdale tells people he had not heard of it.
-Pearl is now 7 years old, and the "A" on Hester's clothes has changed its meaning from adulterer to able. This is because Hester has done many good deeds and has been helpful to the community. Hester's appearance had also changed. She wore her hair completely hidden in a cap, and there was also nothing in Hester's face for passion and love to capture. So since Chillingworth and Hester's meeting in the prison, Herster had brought herself to a higher point while Chillingworth's morals had been lowered by his the revenge he wanted.
-Hester wants to tell Dimmesdale who Chillingworth actually is because Chillingworth is causing him a great deal of pain every day. After talking to Chillingworth, Hester says she hates him, and she decides to tell Dimmesdale about Chillingworth while he is on a walk. While walking through the forest to Dimmesdale, Hester tells Pearl that scarlet letter is the Black Man's, who is in the forest, mark on her. Hester finally sees Dimmesdale and tells Pearl to stay along the brook.
-The day before Hester and Dimmesdale had planned to leave, there is a New England holiday, and Dimmesdale will give his Election Sermon. During this holiday, Hester and Pearl walk to the market place. Pearl constantly asks about Dimmesdale. While in the market place, the captain of the ship which they had planned to leave on tells Hester that Roger Chillingworth is going to be aboard the ship as well.
-Revernend Dimmesdale's sermon cast a spell on his audience. He kept their attention. While walking out of the church in the parade of people, Dimmesdale stopped when he saw Hester and Pearl. He told them to walk up the scaffold with him. Then he indirectly told the whole crowd that he was Pearl's father. After confessing to his sin, Dimmesdale died. There were various stories afterwards about what exactly happened in the market place that day.
-Within the year, Roger Chillingworth also died. He left all his fortune to Pearl, so Pearl became the richest heiress of her day. However, Hester and Pearl vanished. They probably went to Europe or England. Years later it is said that people saw Hester in and around her isolated cottage, recieving cards and making baby clothes. After many, many years, Hester was buried next to Dimmesdale, but there was space between the graves that meant they had no right to mingle. The saying, "On a field, sable, the letter A. gules," was carved on her tombstone.
-The fact that Hester sewed the "A" and did so beautifully shows that she has already taken matters into her own hands. Because of this, the "A"'s symbolism changes from a symbol of her ostracization from society to her acceptance in society. This is because by showing off her handiwork, she is able to support herself in the community by sewing for others. Also, by her exceptional talent, she devotes her time to making clothing for the poor as well as helping the poor in other ways. The citizens of Boston had forgiven her and the "A" began to represent sacrifice and grace to the Puritan society which was completely the opposite of what the "A"'s intended purpose was. However, citizens have forgiven her individually and not as a whole so hester is still a social outcast.
"Her breast, with its badge of shame, was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one. ... The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, - so much power to do, and power to sympathize, - that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength," (Hawthorne 111).
- Ultimately, the A changes from a sign of shame in the beginning to a sign of grace in the end. This symbol shows the overarching theme of grace and forgiveness and this is the authors focus in The Scarlet Letter.
- The famous scarlet letter is the letter "A" woven with golden thread and it is worn by Hester Prynne to label her as an adulterer and thus shun her from her Puritan society.
"Individuals in private life, meanwhile, had quite forgiven Hester Prynne for her frailty; nay, more, they had begun to look upon the scarlet letter as the token, not of that one sin, for which she had borne so long and dreary a penance, but of her many good deeds since. 'Do you see that woman with the embroidered badge?” they would say to strangers. “It is our Hester,—the town’s own Hester,—who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted!' Then, it is true, the propensity of human nature to tell the very worst of itself, when embodied in the person of another, would constrain them to whisper the black scandal of bygone years. It was none the less a fact, however, that, in the eyes of the very men who spoke thus, the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness, which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril. Had she fallen among thieves, it would have kept her safe. It was reported, and believed by many, that an Indian had drawn his arrow against the badge, and that the missile struck it, but fell harmless to the ground," (Hawthorne 112).
-At the end of the novel, Hester returns from Europe to reside once again in her cottage and wear her scarlet letter. This shows that the scarlet letter changed to symbolize grace.
-The "A" ironically began to protect Hester.
Hawthorne was a Dark Romantic so he was not optimistic like the Transcendentalists. He showed the existance of sin, pain, and evil in life. Hawthorne also shows the psychological effects of guilt and sin by showing how overcome and distraught Dimmesdale became. Hawthorne also shows the madness that overcame Chillingworth to portray evil. The author also shows the romantic conflict of good and evil through contrasting the different characters such as Hester Prynne vs. Mistress Hibbins and Chillingworth vs. Dimmesdale.
"A writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them, and making one little pause, with all its wreathed intervolutions in sight." (54)
In this passage, Hawthorne compares the look on Roger Chillingworth's face to a snake. This gives a lot of depth to the quote and more fully describes his feelings about Hester on the podium and being titled an adultress. It also foreshadows the evil that consumes Roger later in the book. The words "writhing" and "twisted" help to show the emotions on his face to the reader. Both these words have a sort of evil connotation. Using these words is superior to just saying, "a look of horror crossed his face."
“All his strength and energy—all his vital and intellectual force—seemed at once to desert him; insomuch that he positively withered up, shrivelled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun.” This quote is describing the demise of Roger Chillingworth soon after the death of Dimmesdale. The fact that Roger is dependent upon Dimmesdale makes him the weed. It’s also interesting that Hawthorne compared him to a weed instead of another plant like a flower. This quote illustrates the point that Roger needs to be preying on something for him to exist, and without something to torment he cannot survive.
“Or might it suffice him, that every wholesome growth should be converted into something deleterious and malignant at his touch?” (158)
Hester is thinking that it would be fitting if everything Roger touched became ugly and evil because that’s what he has become. The effect that these particular words have on the quote is that they make Roger seem particularly evil. The use of these words as opposed to ones such as “evil” or “ugly” make him seem more nefarious.
This was undoubtedly a very complex novel. At times, this made it hard to read. Also, this novel was hard to relate to because of the time period and the events in the book (adultery, etc). However, it was overall a good book and Hawthorne used a lot of really descriptive language that made the book enjoyable.
A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek, that had been long so pale. Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back from what men call the irrevocable past, and clustered themselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before unknown, within the magic circle of this hour. And, as if the gloom of the earth and sky had been but the effluence of these two mortal hearts, it vanished with their sorrow. All at once, as with a sudden smile of Heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmuting the yellow fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the gray trunks of the solemn trees.” (185)
I chose this quote because of the imagery. This scene is directly after Hester takes her cap and letter off, and it is as if the world is rejoicing. Her body seems to spring back to life, no longer the shell of a person that she was when she wore the letter and had her hair under her cap. The mention of sunshine relates back to a scene where she had no sunshine and it would not touch her; now it bursts forth and lightens the dark forest and makes the whole scene merrier.
~One night, a meteor flew through the sky and in its drift, illuminated a cloud in the shape of an "A". Different interpretation are seen through the meteor. Dimmesdale sees this through his contrite eyes and believes it is a divine sign from God that he should wear a scarlet letter just like Hester Prynne because he is just as guilty of adultery as she is. He feels remorse for keeping it in so long and avoiding punishment. However, since the minister's sin is unbeknownst to the town, the town interperate the "A" in the sky as standing for "angel" since their dear Governor Winthrope had died that night. They believed it was a sign that he was an angel in Heaven.
~These two different interpretations symbolize how the Puritans searched for divine symbols from God in nature. However, the different interpretations of the meteor also symbolize how society is still kept ignorant from his secret and how Dimmesdale is conflicted because he is the minister and does not want to ruin his reputation.
“More than once, Mr. Dimmesdale had gone into the pulpit, with a purpose never to come down its steps, until he should have spoken words like the above. More than once, he had cleared his throat, and drawn in the long, deep, and tremulous breath, which, when sent forth again, would come burdened with the black secret of his soul. More than once—nay, more than a hundred times—he had actually spoken! Spoken!"
~Chillingworth is symbolized with a parasite called the leech. The name of two chapters "The Leech" and "The Leech and His Patient" all encompass Chillingworth. A leech lives off of another by destroying the body it feeds off of and this makes the leech unable to live without its host and this makes the host eventually die. Chillingworth lives to torture Arthur Dimmesdale because he seeks revenge. Chillingworth addmits in third person, "'only by this perpetual poison of the direst revenge! ... A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment!'" (Hawthorne ). After Dimmesdale dies, Chillingworth dies only a year later because he lost his will of living. This is explained when Hawthorne writes that Chillingworth was "like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun,"(237) after Dimmesdale dies.
~The minister frequently puts his hand over his heart when he feels nervous etc. This is interpreted by the town to be health problems since his health is declining. Unbeknownst to the town, Arthur Dimmesdale's habit of doing this may be because of the pain from his self-inflicted physical abuse. Later in the book, he exposes a red "A" mark on his chest and the audience is left to assume that he put it there from whipping himself. The habit of putting his hand on his heart ultimately symbolizes that he feels the need to put a scarlet letter there. Pearl, a very intelligent child, catches the similar gestures between Hester's scarlet letter and Dimmesdale's habit. She is the first to draw the connection between the two besides Chillingworth. So, the hand over the heart symbolizes the connection of the shared sin between Hester an the minister.
Hand Over Heart
~The day after the scaffold scene, the sexton brings the minister's black glove to the minister and says he found it at the scaffold. Black is the color of mystery and secrets and this represents the minister's secretive sin of adultery. However, he is never suspicious to why the minister's glove would have been there. He simply assumes that "Satan dropped it there," (Hawthorne 142). Also to showcase his arrogance Hawthorne writes the sexton saying to the minister: "'A pure hand needs no glove to cover it!'" (142). Over all, the glove symbolizes how the town is blind and cannot see that their minister is a human being as well and is capable of sin also. This furthers the point of the novel that everyone is capable of sin. When the minister accepts the glove but denies seeing the "A" in the meteor the night before, this represents how he is accepting society's interpretation over the truth.
The Black Glove
~The deterioration of the minister's physical health amplifies the theme of humand character because he feels remorse for his sin. His spirtual conscience leeks into his physical being and thus makes him weak. Also, the minister is beating himself and this adds to his deteriorating health.
~Human society is a theme shown by Dimmesdale's refusal to not only admit to being an adulterer but also his refusal to be seen with them in public because that would expose him to ignonimy. Human society is also seen as a theme in this novel because the reason Arthur Dimmesdale does not admit to being the father of Pearl is because he is the minister and thus well-respected, well-liked, and he has a high-reputation.
Identity and Society
First, it symbolizes exposure and put a nature spotlight on characters. It falls upon Hester when she leaves prison and exposes her to the world and it falls on Chillingworth when he is hiding in the crowd watching Hester at the scaffold stand for public disgrace so that he is exposed to Hester and Hesters takes note of his untimly arrival.
~Sunshine has different meanings throughout the book.
When Hester and Pearl are taking a walk in the forest, pearl notes that the sunshine will only fall on her and avoids her mother. She explains this by saying,"'Mother ... the sunshine does not love you. It runs awy and hides itself , because it is afraid of something on your bosom,'" (Hawthorne 166). Pearl is referring to her mother's scarlet letter. Pearl then asks her mother if she will get a scarlet letter when she grows up and this shows that she is still to young to understand the sin. Hester then says,"'Run away child ... and catch the sunshine! It will soon be gone,'" (Hawthorne 166). Thus, the sunshine represents innocence because it will soon "be gone" from Pearl when she grows and commits her own sin. This is why the sunshine avoids Hester because she has commited the sun of adultery.
- Takes a commonplace object or event and brings the speaker to some important, deeply felt insight.
Contrast: Puritans and Romantics
Puritans found divine signs from God in nature (like the meteor). Romantics found signs in nature but focused less on if they were signs from God. So since Hawthorne is a Romantic writing about a Puritan society, he uses his Romantic characteristics to protray the events.
There were two ways American Romantics took in books to display and understand higher truths. One way led to exploring the past, exploring the exotic and supernatural.The other way led to the contemplation of the natural world around them. These are both seen in the novel when there is and exotic scene in the forest and a supernatural identity is found in the meteor.
Ideals of Romantics
Romantics upheld individual feelings, wild nature, and imagination over the logic and reason found in civilization. They felt that society was corrupt and looked toward nature and imagination for escape. This ideal is present in The Scarlet Letter because readers can look into the main characters feeling and the feelings of these characters are the focus and they only contrast with the logic of the Puritan society. The author gives the book a disappointing tone because he disapproves of the Puritans shunning Hester and he disaproves their unforgiving nature. He shows this by saying that individualy the citizens of Boston forgave her. This once again puts individual feelings over society's laws.
Romantic novels often have a very intelligent child. Pearl is very intelligent and often refered to as "elfish" which shows she is cunning. She is one of the only ones to notice the similarity between Hester and Dimmesdale because Hester has an "A" on her chest and Dimmesdale frequently touches his heart.
~Personal identity versus the identity society gives one is a major theme in The Scarlet Letter. Hester shows personal identity by making the "A" herself she shows she has taken the identity of an adulterer into her own hands. Also, when Chillingworth mentions to her that the government of the town is debating on letting her take off the letter Hester disagrees because she does not her identity written by others anymore. On the other side, Dimmesdale represents society's given identity because he refuses to admit he is an adulterer because it would ruin his reputation as a minister and he is a huge role model in the colony. In the end, he cannot hold it in any longer and exposes the truth. THis shows that the author is for personal identity rather than reflecting what society wants or thinks one is.
Forgiveness and Grace
~ Forgiveness and grace is an overarching theme in The Scarlet Letter. Even though the laws of their culture are unforgiving, individuals forgive Hester for her sin. Dimmesdale and Chillingworth forgive her as well as the individuals in the town (but not together as a whole). As mentioned before, the scarlet letter becomes a symbol of grace by the end of the book. This theme seems to be the point of the book because Hawthorne, being a Romantic, does not agree with the Puritan's unforgiving laws and focuses on the individual human heart's desires and emotions regardless of the law or society.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne is actually a desendent of Judge Hawthorne who judged the Salem Witch Trails. This personal connection to Puritan times inspired him to write
The Scarlet Letter.