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Foreshadowing in The Scarlet Letter

Jordan, Mimi, Gracen

Gracen McGuckin

on 30 January 2013

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Transcript of Foreshadowing in The Scarlet Letter

Chapter 1: Description of the prison before Hester is led to the scaffold. "The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognised it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. In accordance with this rule it may safely be assumed that the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house somewhere in the Vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out the first burial-ground." p.33 Purpose: To foreshadow inevitable sin and death within the Puritan colony. Chapter 1: The description of the rose bush in the middle of an otherwise gloomy scene. "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 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." p.33-34 Purpose: The rose bush foreshadows that something good can come out of a bad situation. Ex. Pearl Chapter 2: The gold embroidering on Hester's scarlet letter. "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 splendour in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony." p.37 Purpose: It foreshadows that Hester is not ashamed of her sin, and she goes against the norms of society. Chapter 4: When Chillingworth is talking to Hester in her prison cell. “Why dost thou smile so at me?” inquired Hester, troubled at the expression of his eyes. “Art thou like the Black Man that haunts the forest round about us? Hast thou enticed me into a bond that will prove the ruin of my soul?”
“Not thy soul,” he answered, with another smile. “No, not thine!” p.53 Purpose: This line foreshadows Chillingworth's plans for revenge on Pearl's father. Chapter 8: Dimmesdale defends Hester to the Governor, allowing her to keep Pearl. Pearl presses Dimmesdale's hand to her cheek. “There is truth in what she says,” began the minister, with a voice sweet, tremulous, but powerful, insomuch that the hall re-echoed and the hollow armour rang with it —“truth in what Hester says, and in the feeling which inspires her! God gave her the child, and gave her, too, an instinctive knowledge of its nature and requirements...Pearl, that wild and flighty little elf stole softly towards him, and taking his hand in the grasp of both her own, laid her cheek against it; a caress so tender..." p.78-79 Purpose: This scene foreshadows the connection between Dimmesdale and Hester and Pearl, and his love for them. Chapter 9: Dimmesdale is growing sicker and weaker. "His form grew emaciated; his voice, though still rich and sweet, had a certain melancholy prophecy of decay in it; he was often observed, on any slight alarm or other sudden accident, to put his hand over his heart with first a flush and then a paleness, indicative of pain." p.82 Purpose: This foreshadows Dimmesdale's spiritual and moral crisis. His guilt is causing him to waste away. Chapter 11: Dimmesdale has a dream about Pearl and Hester. "And now, through the chamber which these spectral thoughts had made so ghastly, glided Hester Prynne leading along little Pearl, in her scarlet garb, and pointing her forefinger, first at the scarlet letter on her bosom, and then at the clergyman’s own breast." p. 100 Purpose: This foreshadows Dimmesdale's overwhelming need to confess his guilt, and suffer for it. Chapter 12: When Pearl, Hester, and Dimmesdale are standing together on the scaffold. "She silently ascended the steps, and stood on the platform, holding little Pearl by the hand. The minister felt for the child’s other hand, and took it. The moment that he did so, there came what seemed a tumultuous rush of new life, other life than his own pouring like a torrent into his heart, and hurrying through all his veins, as if the mother and the child were communicating their vital warmth to his half-torpid system. The three formed an electric chain." p. 105 Purpose: To foreshadow Dimmesdale's guilt for his role in Hester's adultery, and also that in the future they will be together. Chapter 15: When Pearl makes her own "A" out of seaweed and puts it on her chest. "As the last touch to her mermaid’s garb, Pearl took some eel-grass and imitated, as best she could, on her own bosom the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother’s. A letter — the letter A— but freshly green instead of scarlet. The child bent her chin upon her breast, and contemplated this device with strange interest..." p. 122 Purpose: Foreshadows Pearl's interest in the connection between her and the scarlet letter and Hester's realization that Pearl should never know about its meaning. Chapter 16: When Hester and Pearl go into the woods and talk about the sunlight. “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. Now, see! There it is, playing a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me — for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!” p. 126 Purpose: This scene foreshadows Pearl's increased understanding of the scarlet letter, and the natural preference for innocence. Chapter 17: When Hester tries to convince Dimmesdale to escape the town and Chillingworth. "Leave this wreck and ruin here where it hath happened. Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Hast thou exhausted possibility in the failure of this one trial? Not so! The future is yet full of trial and success. There is happiness to be enjoyed! There is good to be done! Exchange this false life of thine for a true one." p.136 Purpose: This foreshadows Dimmesdale running away with Hester and Pearl. Chapter 19: Pearl refuses to come to her mother when Hester is not wearing the scarlet letter. "Pearl still pointed with her forefinger, and a frown gathered on her brow — the more impressive from the childish, the almost baby-like aspect of the features that conveyed it. As her mother still kept beckoning to her, and arraying her face in a holiday suit of unaccustomed smiles, the child stamped her foot with a yet more imperious look and gesture." Purpose: Foreshadows that even with their plan, Hester and Dimmesdale will not escape society's judgment. Conclusion: There are constant elements of foreshadowing in many of the chapters, both obvious and subtle, but there is no exact pattern. The events that Hawthorne foreshadows usually do not occur soon after the foreshadowing, but instead, most of the things that are foreshadowed occur in the last 3-5 chapters of the book. Many of the foreshadowed elements do not come true until the conclusion of the story. Foreshadowing
in The Scarlet Letter
Jordan, Mimi, Gracen
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