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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter

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  1. The Scarlet Letter • CHAPTER NOTES 5-10 • ADAPTED FROM: • Guelcher, William: THE SCARLET LETTER: STRATEGIES IN TEACHING: Idea Works Inc., Eagan Minnesota, 1989. • Van Kirk, Susan: HAWTHORNE’S THE SCARLET LETTER: CliffsNotes. IDG Books Worldwide Inc., Forest City, California., 2000.

  2. Before we start…a lighter note • What’s in a name? • Roger Chillingsworth • Roger Cottingworth • Roger Billiger • Roger Chillingout • Richard Cillingworth • Richard Chilling • Richard Ellington • Randy Chillingworth • Oliver Bellingsworth • Chillingham • Thomas

  3. Chapters 5-10 • Hester begins her life as an outcast in a cottage that separates the town from the wilderness • She is completely isolated – just as she was on the scaffold in the first chapter – as “the figure, the body, the reality of sin.” • Hester could flee from her letter; she does not. • Along with the rest of her life, “…her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck in the soil.”

  4. Chapters 5-10 • The big question: Should this place be the scene of her earthly punishment as a decree from God? • Or should this be the place where she would work out the new purity which was more “saint-like, because of the result of martyrdom?” • As a result of her sin, does Hester Prynne actually become a person morally superior to the person she was before?

  5. Chapters 5-10 • She carves out an existence for her and Pearl through her needlework, which is in great demand (except for wedding garb). • Irony: The town condemns Hester while seeking the garments she makes: For her part, Hester is not overly proud of her handiwork. She sees the ornamentation as sin. • Remember how ornate her own scarlet letter is. • She also donates much or her earnings to charity.

  6. Chapters 5-10 • Key theme: the scarlet letter – what it represents – separates Hester from society, but it allows her to recognize sin in the very same society that banishes her. • This represents the hypocrisy of Puritanism • Whenever Hester is in the presence of a person masking a sin, “the red infamy upon her breast would give a sympathetic throb.” • This concerns her: Focusing on the sins of others may tempt her to “devalue” her own.

  7. CHAPTERS 5-10 • Pearl • So named because she came of a “great price” • A character and a symbol • Complex: an almost unworldly, beautiful, radiant child whose uncontrollable nature reflects the sinful passion that led to her birth. • “She is the product and symbol of an act of adultery, an act of love, an act of passion, a sin, and a crime.” • She is the devil’s child and God’s child.

  8. CHAPTERS 5-10 • The Puritans saw extramarital sex as something inherently evil. • So Hawthorne raises the question: Can something good come from something evil?

  9. CHAPTERS 5-10 • Consider Hawthorne’s take on the treatment of Hester by the town compared to her treatment by God. • “Man had marked this woman’s sin by a scarlet letter, which had so potent and disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself.” • Yet, “God, [who] as a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child…o be finally a blessed soul in heaven!”

  10. Chapters 5-10 • Pay attention to the scarlet references and connection to Pearl in chapter 7 • Pearl’s dress is scarlet, which seems to intensify her “fire and passion.” • Pearl’s scarlet appearance is closely associated with the scarlet letter on Hester’s dress, with which Pearl is fascinated. • The town perceives Pearl as “the scarlet letter in another form.”

  11. Chapters 5-10 • Chapter 8 reunites the four major characters for the first time since the first scaffold scene. • What are the solid hints here that reveal Pearl’s father? • Hester’s appeal to him for help; Pearl’s solemn caress of his hand; his answering kiss. • Hester insists Pearl would be better served if Hester is able to teach her wisdom and help Pearl learn from Hester’s sin.

  12. Chapters 5-10 • What does Pearl answer when Mr. Wilson asks, “Canst thou tell me, child, who made thee?” • Pearl’s refusal to correctly answer the catechism question: reminiscent of Hester’s defiance on the scaffold when she refused to name the father of her child. • Pearl’s existence has a dual nature: happiness and torture for Hester. • Matthew 13:45-46: The story of a merchant who sold all his goods for one pearl of great worth, which represents the kingdom of heaven. • Pearl may find salvation, according to Dimmesdale. Is he prophesying about his own need?

  13. Chapters 5-10 • Two sources of evil appear: Mistress Hibbins and Chillingworth. • Hester notes Chillingworth’s changed physical appearance: now more ugly and dark. • Chillingworth hints that he may already have decided on Dimmesdale’s guilt. • In the end, the forces of light and darkness are vying for human souls.

  14. Chapters 5-10 • This is an important juncture: Hester and Dimmesdale stand as contrasting characters. • She publicly acknowledges her sin and accepts the painful consequences: She chooses to keep open the channel of God’s redemption. • Dimmesdale, by keeping his sin private, chooses to alienate himself from God. He is deteriorating because of this decision.

  15. Chapters 5-10 • This battle of good versus evil carries through Chapter 9. • The town is split on Chillingworth: Some people initially see him as a “brilliant acquisition” for the ailing Dimmesdale. But some also suspect Chillingworth is leading to Dimmesdale’s deterioration. • The “leech” seems to be sucking the life out of the minister. • By doing so, he strikes up a relationship with evil.

  16. CHAPTERS 5-10 • By Chapter 10, Chillingworth’s evil determination is in full bloom. • Dimmesdale’s struggle within himself is destroying him, physically and emotionally. • Chillingworth – once a “pure and upright man” – is now doing the work of the devil through his psychological torture of Dimmesdale: The minister cannot serve his fellow man with dark secrets in his soul.

  17. Chapters 5-10 • The mysterious reference to Dimmesdale’s chest at the end of the chapter: an important “clue” and confirmation that Chillingworth has found the man he has been looking for. • Note Hawthorne’s take on the “strange sympathy betwixt the soul and body” – the external representation of the inner character. • The major characters are symbols, as well as people.