2 HISTORY and BEYOND Nathaniel Hawthorne Salem Witch Trials Synopsis Character descriptionsDiscussion QuestionsActivitiesSuggested Readings
3 NATHANIEL HAWTHORNEOne of the most complex and celebrated American writers in our historyWas born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804A direct descendant of John Hathorne, a judge at the Salem witchcraft trials.In The Custom House, his introduction to the The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne includes an appeal to remove any witches’ curses on his family.
4 SALEM WITCHCRAFT TRIALS The newly settled Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts, exploded in 1692 with accusations of witchcraft and deviltry.Before the fear and hysteria diminished, dozens of women had been tried and executed as witches.
5 SYNOPSISThis is a story about Hester Prynne’s adulterous relationship with a young minister, Arthur Dimmesdale.This novel explores the conflict between private truth and public appearances.It also explores the choice between sin and salvation.
7 Hester PrynneHester is one of the strongest and self-assured female characters in literature.The rose symbolizes Hester and her unsuppressable spirit.She brings goodness and morality into the story.
8 Reverend DimmesdaleRev. Dimmesdale has a white(good) brow, suggesting that he knows what is right.He has dark, melancholy eyes, which if viewed as the windows to Dimmesdale’s soul says something about his character.The darkness in his soul supercedes the goodness in his head.
9 Pearl Pearl is often identified with the color red. The color red is associated with evil; she is not an evil child in the true sense of the word, but she is a reflection of her parent’s immorality and love.Just like the red rose at the beginning, Pearl is meant to relieve the sorrow and misery.
10 Roger ChillingworthChillingworth seeks and is motivated by revenge and control.He acted like a trusted friend and confidant to Dimmesdale, but becomes the cause for the ultimate element of betrayal.Chillingworth has become a witch suggesting he is the devil himself.
11 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS1. Why was Hester Prynne perceived as a threat to her Puritan community?2. Why is Hester sentenced to wear an “A”?3. What is the setting of The Scarlet Letter?4. Why did Puritans come to America?5. What secrets do Hester and Chillingworth promise to keep?6. What was the definition of a witch in 17th-century Puritan society?7. What horrifying sight did Chillingworth see on Dimmesdale’s chest?8. What are some key symbols in the novel, and what do they represent?
12 ACTIVITIESModern illustrated cartoon books and movies for children have popularized many classic works of literature. Here we are going to make The Scarlet Letter into a cartoon, comic strip, or cartoon book.ProcedureStep 1: Select a main character for your cartoon or comic strip.Step 2: Consider your audience. Will your cartoon or comic strip be for adults or children? Submit a one-paragraph proposal to me before proceeding with your design. If your audience is primarily adult, you may want to consider creating a political cartoon, or retelling the story from the point of view of a different character. For example, what if “Hester Prynne had written “The Scarlet Letter?”
13 ACTIVITIES (continued) Step 3: Plan your story ideas.In your journal, write ideas from the novel that you remember the best or that made a lasting impression on you. Recreate the incident using the language, tone, or mood of the character you have selected to feature in your cartoon. Once you have an outline of your ideas, think of illustrations you can apply to your text.Step 4: Create your Great Cartoon.Here is one suggestion for assembling your ideas into a cartoon or comic strip.1) ANIMATION: Illustrate your story through simple animation. Create your animated story by drawing two images that appear to move.Here is what to do: Take two pieces of paper (3 x 7 inches). Place one on top of the other. On the top sheet draw the first image. Then place it underneath. Now draw the second image. Place it under the first one. Once your two images are drawn, staple the two sheets together on one end. Take a pencil and roll the unstapled end of the top piece of paper until you can see the image that you drew on the paper underneath. Hold your papers in place, and quickly roll the pencil back and forth to create animated motion.
14 SUGGESTED Further READINGS The Blithedale Romance(Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991)A novel about a socialist community in Brook Farm, Roxbury.Nathaniel Hawthorne, New Critical Essays(A. Robert Lee (Editor), London: Vision Press; Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1982)Book includes a collection of critical essays of Hawthorne and his works.Understanding the Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents(Claudia D. Johnson, Greenwood Press, 1995)