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Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter.

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Presentation on theme: "Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter."— Presentation transcript:

1 Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter

2 Puritanism/Scarlet Letter Timeline
In History: -Pilgrims/Puritans come to America -Harvard founded-religious higher education -Christmas Celebration outlawed by Puritans -Salem Witch Trials: dissent, love triangles, landlust=breakdown of Puritan theocracy ; w/Judge John Hathorne In the novel: -Ch. 1-4 public scaffold scene Pearl=baby in mother’s arms -Scene at Governor Bellingham’s Pearl=3 years old -Novel’s climax at scaffold Pearl=7 years old -Last Chapter of novel (sort of) 1638 1642 1645 1649 1655 1692 1850 Hawthorne publishes Scarlet Letter (200 years later, during Romantic Era, so written in romantic style, but with Puritan influences and themes)

3 Hawthorne Bio Info 1804-Childhood = College 1821-1825 =
Isolation = = = = = = = = = = = = Salem: born, father dies, family poor, single mom, adds w Bowdoin, Maine w/F. Pierce, goofed off, mediocre student “dismal chamber” to learn how to write well Twice Told Tales, about secrets of violence in heart Engaged; utopian farm-Brook Farm w/Transcendentalists Marries Sophia, moves to Concord where famous writers job at Custom House; mom dies, loses job Scarlet Letter $ and success “hellfire story” House of Seven Gables and Snow Image Blithedale Romance U.S. Counsel at Liverpool, Marble Faun—travel log Pierce defeated; Lincoln=Civil War, H. out of place journals Our Old Home dies (of solitude, according to Emerson)

4 HISTORICAL CONTEXT To what “period” of American
Literature does Hawthorne belong?? Lets take a look at the history of American Literature…..

5 HISTORICAL CONTEXT English Heritage (Elizabethan Age)
: Early Colonial period- Puritan writings, no distinctive American literature : Later Colonial period- Age of Reason/Enlightenment (Neoclassicism, Rationalism)

6 HISTORICAL CONTEXT : American Renaissance/ Romanticism- slave narratives, inner feelings, the burden of a Puritan past, the rejection of Neoclassicism Transcendentalism was a part of this…

7 American Romanticism Authors: Washington Irving, Edgar Allen Poe (more Gothic/Dark Romantic), Hawthorne Contemporary with Transcendentalists— Emerson and Thoreau Valued feelings and intuition over reason Reaction against classicism (rationalism) Valued individual freedom and worth of individual Explore subconscious; pre-Freudian psychology, faith in inner experience More individualistic, less societal; about finding yourself Seems ancient, traditional, gothic, pastoral Role of Frontier, critical of society—escape to nature to gain moral and spiritual development Gothic elements (darkness, considers conflicts between good and evil, sin, insanity, psychological effects, etc.) Power of imagination Beauty in exotic, supernatural, myth/legend/folklore

Boston-centered movement, led by Emerson, was an important force in New England circles Human existence transcends the sensory realm Formalism in favor of individual responsibility Belief in individual choice and consequence Focus on the positive

9 HISTORICAL CONTEXT SUBDIVISION OF ROMANTICISM: GOTHIC LITERATURE, the “dark romantics”( ) -use of supernatural -motif of double (both good and evil in characters; sin and evil does exist) -depression, dark forests -Poe, Hawthorne, Melville -emphasis on symbolism (which we will discuss later)

10 NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE “The Scarlet Letter is powerfully written but my writings do not, nor ever will, appeal to the broadest class of sympathies, and therefore will not obtain a very wide popularity.” -Hawthorne, after finishing the novel

11 NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE As a literary artist… First American “pro writer”: college educated, familiar with the great European writers 4,000 copies of The Scarlet Letter sold in the first 10 days

12 LITERARY ELEMENTS Characters Mood Setting Plot Symbolism Themes

The SOMBER, DARK mood is well-defined from the beginning: “sad-colored garments” of spectators, the prison door which is “heavily timbered and studded with iron spikes”

17th century Puritanical New England (Mass.) What was America like then?

Life in the Mid 1600s Boston was founded just 2 decades earlier 1st governor was John Winthrop, who governed based on religious and civic ideals People were hardworking and devoted 1630s- Puritans established a number of settlements in Massachusetts PURITANISM involved belief that the church of England was too much influenced by the Catholic church Strict code, on which people were expected to act and judged upon Rejected belief that divine authority is channeled through any one single person (i.e. the pope) THEOCRACY- state governed by the church

What aspects of this type of religious society can be seen in The Scarlet Letter? How do you think Hawthorne views this type of society?

17 How did his life affect the writing of the novel?
John Hathorne presided over the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 Major William Hathorne ( ) persecuted quakers 1. Influences on Hawthorne: Puritan background

Individual Rights/Self-trust v. accommodation to authority Conventional v. unconventional gender roles Guilt: sense of guilt forced by puritanical heritage/society Hypocrisy v. Integrity Moral Pride v. Intellect The penalties of isolation/ isolation because of self-cause and societal cause Patriarchal power Belief in fate/free will Impossibility of earthly perfection

19 MAJOR THEMES Perhaps his greatest interest was the human capacity on how sin operates on the inner workings of minds With the superstition common to his brotherhood, he fancied himself given over to a fiend, to be tortured with frightful dreams, and desperate thoughts, the sting of remorse, and despair of pardon; as a foretaste of what awaits him beyond the grave. But it was the constant shadow of my presence!--the closest propinquity of the man whom he had most vilely wronged!--and who had grown to exist only by this perpetual poison of the direst revenge! Yea, indeed!--he did not err!--there was a fiend at his elbow! A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment!" The unfortunate physician, while uttering these words, lifted his hands with a look of horror, as if he had beheld some frightful shape, which he could not recognize, usurping the place of his own image in a glass. “smile with a sinister meaning”

20 How did his life affect the writing of the novel?
2) Salem- childhood, later work at the Custom House, as Surveyor of the Port “The Custom House” introduction creates a FRAME STORY This introduction gives an account of his experience as surveyor; he attacks the officials who connived in his dismissal… Like his heroine Hester, Hawthorne emerges from confrontation with a self-righteous society as an individual of integrity,passion, and moral superiority.

21 SYMBOLISM Symbolism is evident in the following objects in The Scarlet Letter. What implications are made through the use of these symbols?

22 Symbols Rose/rosebush Letter A Light/Dark Pearl The Leech Others


24 SYMBOLISM The 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 splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.” “Not a stitch in that embroidered letter, but she has felt it in her heart.”


26 SYMBOLISM Hester’s and Pearl’s Clothing
“Her own dress was of the coarsest materials and the most sombre hue; with only that one ornament—the scarlet letter—which it was her doom to wear.” “The child’s attire, on the other hand, was distinguished by a fanciful, or, we might rather say, a fantastic ingenuity, which served, indeed, to heighten the airy charm that early began to develop itself in the little girl…”

27 SYMBOLISM PEARL (the name)
“Her Pearl!—For so had Hester called her; not as a name expressive of her aspect, which had nothing of the calm, white, unimpassioned lustre that would be indicated by the comparison. But she named the infant “Pearl,” as being of great price—purchased with all she had—her mother’s only treasure!”

28 SYMBOLISM The Leech “He gathered herbs here and there”

29 Can you think of any more?
SYMBOLISM Can you think of any more?

30 “The Custom House” General Info.
Custom House: Government building where customs are collected and where ships are cleared to enter or leave county (by water) Hawthorne worked there for 27 months as surveyor (pretty much everyone else’s boss) “The Custom House” is both factual and fictional—he did work at one and tells stories of real people, but made up some of the stories, esp. the Letter A and Hester Prynne “The Custom House” is intro. to Scarlet Letter—included for $ and more text, but also to set up explanation why he wrote it (fictional) and themes of isolation, alienation, etc.

31 Custom House Picture From first page of "The Custom-House" chapter in the 1878 edition of The Scarlet Letter published in 1878 by James R. Osgood and Co. in Boston.


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