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CHAPTER NOTES 22-24 ADAPTED FROM: Guelcher, William: THE SCARLET LETTER: STRATEGIES IN TEACHING: Idea Works Inc., Eagan Minnesota, 1989. Van Kirk, Susan:

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Presentation on theme: "CHAPTER NOTES 22-24 ADAPTED FROM: Guelcher, William: THE SCARLET LETTER: STRATEGIES IN TEACHING: Idea Works Inc., Eagan Minnesota, 1989. Van Kirk, Susan:"— Presentation transcript:

1 CHAPTER NOTES ADAPTED FROM: Guelcher, William: THE SCARLET LETTER: STRATEGIES IN TEACHING: Idea Works Inc., Eagan Minnesota, Van Kirk, Susan: HAWTHORNE’S THE SCARLET LETTER: CliffszNotes. IDG Books Worldwide Inc., Forest City, California., THE SCARLET LETTER

2 Chapter 22: We get a sense right away that Hester and Dimmesdale’s future together is doomed. Hester despairs over the change in Dimmesdale: “He seemed so remote from her own sphere, and utterly beyond her reach.” Compare that to three days earlier in the forest: “How deeply they had know each other then!” CHAPTERS 22-24

3 Hawthorne uses Mistress Hibbins to foreshadow the ending: The old witch reveals the minister’s sin will soon become public knowledge. Dimmesdale may have removed himself from Hester’s emotional sphere, but she has not lost her connection to him. She hears and recognizes his “low expression of anguish” in his final sermon – and his unspoken plea for forgiveness. CHAPTERS 22-24

4 Chapter 23: The third and climactic scaffold scene Finally, Dimmesdale lets go of everything: his honor, his love, his family, his life. Dimmesdale knows God sees everything: He cannot outrun the truth or his conscience. CHAPTERS 22-24

5 The tenets of Puritan society are present: The Church, in the form of Mr. Wilson, and the State, in the form of Gov. Bellingham. Both try to help Dimmesdale: He repels them and turns to Hester instead. He asks Hester for approval of this act and then places his fate in the hand of God. CHAPTERS 22-24

6 Two other characters are profoundly affected. Chillingworth loses his purpose for living: “Thou hast escaped me!” Pearl kisses her father and weeps. She has gained compassion, sympathy, and the ability to interact with humans: “The spell is broken” indicates Pearl can now live a life full of love and happiness. CHAPTERS 22-24

7 Finale: What did the community see on Dimmesdale’s chest? Hawthorne leaves it ambiguous. What is unambiguous is the moral lesson: “Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait by which the worst may be inferred.” Be true to yourself: Which characters in the story were true, and what price did they pay for that? CHAPTERS 22-24

8 Chillingworth fades badly and vanishes: His revenge has consumed him and made him inhuman. With Dimmesdale removed, Chillingworth has nothing to sustain him. CHAPTERS 22-24

9 Pearl’s future is not confirmed, but the reader is left to believe she lived a long and happy life, married, enjoying motherhood and apparent wealth. Her love and generosity toward Hester are evident. This only became possible through Dimmesdale’s public confession: Pearl becomes a child of Truth, as the scarlet letter is a symbol of truth. The Truth now purges Pearl from the evil influence of the devil. CHAPTERS 22-24

10 The graceful and dignified woman that Hester becomes is a survivor through suffering. Her suffering allows her to give hope to those who are hopeless and help to those who are in trouble. Because her heart has felt these emotions, she is able to comfort others. The question remains: Why does she return to the colony? CHAPTERS 22-24

11 In the end, Hester and Dimmesdale are side by side but not quite together in the cemetery. However, they share a common tombstone. “On a field, sable, the letter A. gules.” On a dark field, a red letter. In death, they share a scarlet letter. CHAPTERS 22-24

12 Traditionally, the novel has been viewed as a gloomy, tragic book because Hester was “condemned” to the lonely life of a “fallen woman” and a “widow” of sorts, even though her husband was still alive. Can we make an opposite argument that this book is actually a story of triumph? Consider these three strains of thought: 1.Hester can use the scarlet letter as a justification for spurning humankind and raise Pearl in the spirit of that cynicism. 2.She can fall into the trap of despair and hopelessness, feeling that the world has no place for one who has no seriously sinned (and Hester does have moments when she feels that despair). END THOUGHTS

13 3. She can, as an act of her own will, see the scarlet letter as an obligation that she has to both herself and to humankind. Which one does Hester choose? In the end, Hester changes the meaning of the symbolic scarlet letter from one of disgrace to one of honor. The timeless, relevant message: At some point, we will all fail in a moral or ethical expectation. But the sin is not in the fact that we failed; it is what that failure does to us as people. We can either be jaded to cynicism and hypocrisy, or we can be challenged to call up the best in us. END THOUGHTS

14 A parting thought. Many of us live our lives presenting to the world only that which we think the world will find most agreeable. We disguise those elements of ourselves which we think would bring us criticism and ostracism from the community. This forces us to live with the roles that circumstances force upon us. Better to admit to our humanity and trust in the nature of others to forgive and overlook our failings. CHAPTERS 22-24


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