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THE SCARLET LETTER BOOK ANALYSIS Dana Rhodes Period 7.

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1 THE SCARLET LETTER BOOK ANALYSIS Dana Rhodes Period 7

2 NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE Author Bio Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. He was an American writer who graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 1825. Hawthorne published his first novel in 1828 entitled, Fanshawe. Almost 10 years later in 1837, he published Twice-Told Tales, a series of short stories collected by Hawthorne. He joined a transcendentalist community called Brook Farm and was then married to Sophia Peabody in 1842. Hawthorne published his most famous work, The Scarlet Letter, in 1850, followed by several other novels including The House of the Seven Gables and The Blithedale Romance. Many of his works were inspired by his Puritan ancestry, as we can especially see in The Scarlet Letter. His stories are based mostly around dark romanticism and are full of symbolism and deep psychological meaning. Anthony Trollope states in his essay The Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “There never surely was a powerful, active, continually effective mind less round, more lop-sided, than that of Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864. Source of info: En.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Hawthorne www.eldritchpress.org/nh/nhtroll.html

3 CHARACTER PROFILE: HESTER PRYNNE Hester Prynne is a young woman who got herself into some trouble by committing the mortal sin of adultery. She is highly attractive, as states on page 50, “The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes.” She was originally married to old Roger Chillingworth, whom she lived with back in London for some time. Eventually, Roger sent Hester off to Massachusetts by herself while he finished some “business” in London, and she was alone there for a long time. Hester then met Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and the two had a secret affair, which impregnated Hester. Hester knew she had wronged her husband, but her marriage had been only one of convenience, and on page 69, we find out that Hester never really had any true feelings for Roger. “ ‘Thou knowest,’ said Hester- for, depressed as she was, she could not endure this last quiet stab at the token of her shame,- ‘thou knowest that I was frank with thee. I felt no love, nor feigned any.’ ” She was arrested for her sin and was sentenced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life so that everyone knew she was an adulteress. She made things even worse for herself by not telling the people who the father of her child was, so he didn’t share the ignominy and embarrassment. People judged Hester for many years and kept their distance from her and her daughter Pearl. “Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,- at her, the child of honorable parents,- at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman,- at her, who had once been innocent,- as the figure, the body, the reality of sin. And over her grave, the infamy that she must carry thither would be her only monument.” (Page 73)

4 CHARACTER PROFILE: CONTINUED Hester spent 7 years living on the outskirts of town with little Pearl with no one to support them or love them. But Hester was a very independent woman, and she didn’t let this get to her. She held her head high through all the mean looks and harsh words and dutifully as a mother raised her little Pearl the best she could. Hester showed even more pride by embracing her sin and embroidering the letter A on her chest with gold and other ornamental details to make it stand out. Hester also showed great loyalty and love by not revealing Arthur Dimmesdale’s identity to anyone. Eventually, the guilt of his sin became too much for Dimmesdale and he revealed the truth about him and Hester to the public, and later died. After that, Hester and Pearl left Massachusetts and went over seas. Hester returned after many years and ironically became a very honorable and admirable person in Boston. People came to her for help and counseling, and they saw her from a new perspective. “And, as Hester Prynne had no selfish ends, nor lived in any measure for her own profit and enjoyment, people brought all their sorrows and perplexities, and besought her counsel, as one who had herself gone through a mighty trouble. Women, more especially,- in the continually recurring trials of wounded, wasted, wronged, misplaced, or erring and sinful passion,- or with the dreary burden of a heart unyielded, because unvalued and unsought,- came to Hester’s cottage, demanding why they were so wretched, and what the remedy! Hester comforted and counselled them the best she might.” (Page 234-235)

5 CONFLICT ANALYSIS: HESTER AND GOVERNOR BELLINGHAM As the main character and protagonist in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne encounters numerous conflicts with several characters throughout the novel. One of these conflicts takes place at Governor Bellingham's mansion, when the Governor, Reverend Wilson, and Reverend Dimmesdale encounter Hester and little Pearl. When Bellingham first addresses Hester, he tells her that there had been discussion on whether Pearl should be taken away from her, seeing that she was an unfit mother. “… ‘There hath been much question concerning thee, of late. The point hath been weightily discussed, whether we, that are of authority and influence, do well discharge our consciences by trusting an immortal soul, such as there is in yonder child, to the guidance of one who hath stumbled and fallen, amid the pitfalls of this world… Were it not, thinkest thou, for thy little one’s temporal and eternal welfare that she be taken out of thy charge…?’ ” (Page 101) The Governor and political people think that because Hester has committed such a great sin, Pearl should be taken away from her and be put with parents who can take care of her and teach her about God and the right ways. Hester becomes heated, and argues that Pearl can learn many things from the scarlet letter that her mothers wears upon her chest. Hester explains how the letter upon her bosom has alone taught herself many things and is still teaching her, and that Pearl will be able to absorb lessons from it as well. “ ‘I can teach my little Pearl what I have learned from this!’ answered Hester Prynne, laying her finger on the red token. ‘Woman, it is thy badge of shame!’ replied the stern magistrate. ‘It is because of the stain which that letter indicates, that we would transfer thy child to other hands.’ ‘Nevertheless,’ said the mother… ‘this badge hath taught me – it daily teaches me – it is teaching me at this moment – lessons whereof my child may be wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself.’ ” (Page 101)

6 CONFLICT ANALYSIS: CONTINUED Hester and the Governor argue back and forth, bringing out much anger from Hester, until finally, Hester pleas for Reverend Dimmesdale’s interference. She insists that he knows her better than anyone could, and begs him to convince the Governor to let her keep Pearl. She explains how God gave her Pearl and she was meant to keep her. “ ‘ God gave her into my keeping,’ repeated Hester Prynne, raising her voice almost to a shriek. ‘I will not give her up!’ – … she turned to the young clergyman, Mr.Dimmesdale, at whom, up to this moment, she had seemed hardly so much as once to direct her eyes. – ‘Speak thou for me!’ cried she. ‘Thou wast my pastor, and hadst charge of my soul, and knowest me better than these men can… Thou knowest, - for thou hast sympathies which these men lack! – thou knowest what is in my heart, and what are a mother’s rights, and how much stronger they are, when that mother has but her child and the scarlet letter! Look thou to it! I will not lose the child! …’” (Page 103) The minister speaks for Hester explaining that God did indeed give her the child and equipped her with the knowledge to raise her that only she could possess. He also explains how Pearl is God’s one blessing to Hester since she has to live her life in misery every day. Reverend Dimmesdale speaks so earnestly for Hester that the Governor ends up letting her keep the child, and this particular conflict is resolved. This incident probably increases the love that Hester feels for the minister. Even though she cannot openly express her love for him at the moment, she still appreciates what he had just done for her. The consequence of this conflict might be that Chillingworth gained his suspicions about Dimmesdale being Pearl’s father because of the way he spoke for Hester and Pearl.


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