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The Scarlet Letter (developing)

An overview of themes, motifs, and other literary features
by

Michael Hamilton

on 24 February 2014

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Transcript of The Scarlet Letter (developing)

The Scarlet Letter
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Structure
Style (Expression)
Devices
General Chapter Notes
Lesson Title
Objective(s):
Parting Thoughts
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 2: "The Market-Place," Initial Notes
The mob awaiting HP's punishment
HP brought out from prison
HP's shame and punishment on the scaffold
The gossips:
"Morally, as well as materially, there was a coarser fibre in those wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding . . . " (48).
"Marry" - p. 48
"trow" - p. 48
Hawthorne's CHARACTERIZATION of the early Puritan settlers - p. 47
Don't assume an eagerness to execute
DO assume severity of punishment
"Religion and law almost identical"
Objective(s): I.D. 2 ways that Hawthorne uses CONTRAST to develop Hester's character:
Hester vs. Gossips
Light/Darkness Motif
ALL EYES ON HESTER
Parting Thoughts
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Structure
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 3: "The Recognition"
Hester's punishment continues. . . .
Recognizes stanger in the distance
Chastized by reverends
HP refuses to name the father
Does the letter's "gleam" in the dark corridor contribute to the possible light/dark motif?
Objective(s): Obtain a thorough understanding of 5 unique characters in chapter 3.
WHO IS STRANGEST OF THEM ALL?
Parting Thoughts
Structure
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Structure
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 1: "The Prison-Door," Initial Notes
A panoramic of the cemetery and prison-door
Does the narrator suggest anything about human nature, the novel's characters, or the story to follow?
Symmetry - Vegetation/flowers/"flower"
Apt diction
"Steeple-crowned hats"
"Virgin soil"
"Congregated sepulchres"
Symbol?
Will the rose be a symbol of moral caution?
Of redemption?
Of relief from tragedy?
Indications that this is a "romance"?
Special attention to the rose bush
An introduction to the main story
Does the rose remind the reader of the twofold purposes of literature?
To teach ("moral blossom")
To delight ("relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow"?)
First two institutions of these people?
Prison..............................LAW
Cemetary........................DEATH
Is Hawthorne suggesting that these ideas are present in the back of these people's minds? Are they especially influenced by them?
The narrator is conscious of crime/evil being as old as man. No "Golden Age" of man.
"Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era."
Objective(s):
Find 1 thematic clue about the narrative to follow, and
2+ literary features that will likely be traceable throughout the novel
SETTING THE STAGE
Parting Thoughts
Hawthorne's first chapter sets the stage for the human drama and the artistic order that are likely to follow!
p. 50
"natural dignity"
"force of character"
"of her own free will"
"haughty smile"

Beautiful
"dark and abundant hair"
p. 51
Beautiful letter!
She "made a pride out of what they meant for a punishment."
Her garb fits the times but not her community

p. 53
Compared to Mary . . . yet contrasted with Mary.
the inversion of holiness--yet so close to holiness! Which is she?
Contrast HP with the crowd
Light/Dark Motif?
p. 50-51
Ambiguity between lightness and darkness
HP's dark hair "threw off the sunshine." So. . . .
Is she radiating light?
Or repelling light?

HP's "beauty shone out"
"made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped." So. . . .
Her character overpowers evil?
Or does it trivialize evil?
p. 55
"She saw her own face, glowing with girlish beauty, and illuminating all the dusky mirror. . . ."
Hester seems to break the social mold and possibly fit the Romantic individualistic ideal. But for good or ill? Read on. . . .
Characterization
2. Reverend Wilson
Eager to take charge of HP's soul. . . .
Also eager to have Dimmesdale do so.
3. Dimmesdale
Well-liked, young, "speech like an angel" (67)
"at ease only in some seclusion of his own"
"fragrance, freshness"
Reluctant to make HP divulge the father's name; seems considerate
Finally does exhort her to do so. Says it is better for the father to step down from a high position than to "hide a guilty heart for life."
Impressed by HP's "wondrous strength and generosity of spirit"
1. The stranger. . . .
4. Hester Prynne
Continues to resolve to do her own will and not tell. Motives?
5. The Mob
Is it fair to characterize the masses, and perhaps even the main characters, as "ROMANTIC"?
p. 64 - The scarlet leter lit up by the inferno (hell) itself?
p. 65 - The letter lighting the dark corridor
Do these lines betray a longing for mystery? Idealization? Intuitive understanding?
Hawthorne thickens his plot with interesting characters if not interesting action (not yet, anyway :)). And it seems to make us want to turn to the next page. Who knew an author could do that? Now you do.
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Structure
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 4: "The Interview"
Roger Chillingworth and HP in the jail
Objective(s):
Follow Hawthorne's labyrinthine way of building his plot and characters.
"So what?"
HE GIVES ME THE CHILLS
Parting Thoughts
?!?
p. 67
"She is none of mine." Why point this out?
"Wouldst thou avenge thyself on the innocent babe?" Why would HP even think this?
p. 68
Why keep adding weight to her conscience?
Why touch her letter!?!
p. 69
Why does she feel like she has injured him most of all?
Hawthorne MADE CHOICES. He CHOSE to reveal his plot and characters in a COMPLEX way, rather than in a SIMPLE way. The result? A more INTERESTING, COMPELLING, MYSTERIOUS novel.
p. 69
They're married!
Does she love him?
Does he blame her?
p. 70
"Mine was the first wrong. . . ."
!?!
p. 71
Why keep his I.D. a secret?
Maybe he doesn't want the same of one married "to a faithless woman."
"Maybe for other reasons. Enough."
p. 70-72
Chills thinks he has supernatural power. Does he?
p. 72
Whose soul has HP just handed over to Chills--if that is even possible?
Oh. . . . But I have more questions.
Michael Hamilton, Dayton Christian High School, March-April 2012
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Structure
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 5: "Hester and Her Needle"
Take 3 minutes to review the chapter.
Get your marching orders below. . . .
Objective(s):
POINT AND NEEDLEPOINT
Parting Thoughts
Does Hester maintain the individuality that distinguished her in Chapter 2?
p. 73
"Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of women's frailty and sinful passion."
p. 77.
"She had in her nature a rich, voluptuous . . . characteristic."
"In this manner, Hester Prynne came to have a part to perform in the world. With her native energy of character, and rare capacity, it could not entirely cast her off, but. . . ."
We've been picking out Romantic strains of thought--perhaps being a bit critical of their lust for the mysterious and remote.

Within this romance, though, don't we also find traces of an authentic picture of humanity? Of society in general? Of individuals like Hester? Romantic, perhaps . . . but real.
p. 73
Powerful feeling of "inevitability" that "compels human beings to linger around . . . the spot where some great and marked event has given color to their lifetime. . . ."
p. 74
"There dwelt . . . one with whom she deemed herself connnected in a union. . . . "
p. 74
Martyrdom to sainthood?
Why doesn't she flee the community?
Discuss 3 aspects of Hester Prynne's unique and ever-developing relationship to society
Can a work be ROMANTIC and still faithfully portray reality?
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 2: "The Market-Place," Initial Notes
The mob awaiting HP's punishment
HP brought out from prison
HP's shame and punishment on the scaffold
The gossips:
"Morally, as well as materially, there was a coarser fibre in thos wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding . . . " (48).
"Marry" - p. 48
"trow" - p. 48
Hawthorne's CHARACTERIZATION of the early Puritan settlers - p. 47
Don't assume an eagerness to execute
DO assume severity of punishment
"Religion and law almost identical"
Objective(s): I.D. 2 ways that Hawthorne uses CONTRAST to develop Hester's character:
Hester vs. Gossips
Light/Darkness Motif
ALL EYES ON HESTER
Parting Thoughts
Structure
p. 50
"natural dignity"
"force of character"
"of her own free will"
"haughty smile"

Beautiful
"dark and abundant hair"
p. 51
Beautiful letter!
She "made a pride out of what they meant for a punishment."
Her garb fits the times but not her community

p. 53
Compared to Mary . . . yet contrasted with Mary.
the inversion of holiness--yet so close to holiness! Which is she?
Contrast HP with the crowd
Light/Dark Motif?
p. 50-51
Ambiguity between lightness and darkness
HP's dark hair "threw off the sunshine." So. . . .
Is she radiating light?
Or repelling light?

HP's "beauty shone out"
"made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped." So. . . .
Her character overpowers evil?
Or does it trivialize evil?
p. 55
"She saw her own face, glowing with girlish beauty, and illuminating all the dusky mirror. . . ."
Hester seems to break the social mold and possibly fit the Romantic individualistic ideal. But for good or ill? Read on. . . .
What effect does the letter have on her individuality?
p. 73

p. 77
p. 73

p. 74

p. 74
Mystery . . . nature . . . the supernatural--well, make that preternatural, now that we know the word. This novel couldn't be a ROMANCE, could it?
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
Group 5
Does Hester maintain the individuality that distinguished her in Chapter 2?
Themes, Questions, or Guiding Thoughts
Literary Features
Structure
Style (Expression)
Devices
Chapter 14: Hester and the Physician
THAT'S "JUST" COLD
Objective(s):
Parting Thoughts
Evaluate 3 reasons Chillingworth uses to justify his torture of Dimmesdale
Evaluate Hester's sense of duty and obligation
Pearl plays in the ocean while HP and Chills speak
HP asks Chills to desist of torturing Dimmesdale
Chills will not relent.
Why not?
Wait! We can't get into this without noting what the man looks like. Great paragraph on p. 153.
Okay. We're ready.
Chapter 14 seem a companion to chapter 13: "Another View of Hester." What are the essential changes, if any, in Chillingworth's
physical appearance?
moral character?
view toward his personal mission?
view toward Hester and himself?

Is there a case to be made that Chillingworth's moral and physical changes parallel each other, while Hester's moral and physical changes contradict each other? Support or refute with textual evidence.
All this while, Hester had been looking steadily at the old man, and was shocked, as well as wonder-smitten, to discern what a change had been wrought upon him within the past seven years. It was not so much that he had grown older; for though the traces of advancing life were visible, he bore his age well, and seemed to retain a wiry vigor and alertness. But the former aspect of an intellectual and studious man, calm and quiet, which was what she best remembered in him, had altogether vanished, and been succeeded by an eager, searching, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look. It seemed to be his wish and purpose to mask this expression with a smile; but the latter played him false, and flickered over his visage so derisively, that the spectator could see his blackness all the better for it. Ever and anon, too, there came a glare of red light out of his eyes; as if the old man's soul were on fire, and kept on smouldering duskily within his breast, until, by some casual puff of passion, it was blown into a momentary flame. This he repressed as speedily as possible, and strove to look as if nothing of the kind had happened.

In a word, old Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil's office. This unhappy person had effected such a transformation by devoting himself, for seven years, to the constant analysis of a heart full of torture, and deriving his enjoyment thence, and adding fuel to those fiery tortures which he analyzed and gloated over.
Chilling Change - p. 153
Thrice does Chills attempt to justify his torture of Dimmesdale. How successful is he?
It's not torture, because. . . .
He deserves this torture more than ever, because. . . .
The situation is no one's fault, because. . . .
Complete the thought and match it with the page #
p. 154-155
p. 156
p. 157
I have prolonged his life!
I have ruined myself in exacting vengeance!
We are bound by human nature to be evil!
p. 154-155
p. 157
p. 156
It's not torture, because. . . .
He deserves this torture more than ever, because. . . .
The situation is no one's fault, because. . . .
Does HP feel duty-bound? To whom? How so?
How has HP's opinion on Chillingworth changed between Ch 4 and Ch 14? Ch 14 and Ch 15?
Answer with evidence.
Chillingworth's less than convincing--and perhaps contradictory--attempts to justify his evil indicate that even he is conscious of guilt. Whose attempt to deal with guilt are most successful? Least successful? Why?
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