The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Transcript The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Miss Daigle, Room 227
American Studies
 Students are to use this PowerPoint presentation as a
supplemental source, in addition to their note taking, to
cover the main ideas and analytical theories of Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
 This PowerPoint presentation is designed to summarize the
text and identify stylistic techniques, including figurative
Chapter 1 “The Prison Door”
 “The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue
and happiness they might originally project, have invariably
recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a
portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the
site of a prison” (49)
 Utopia is a reference to John Winthrop’s concepts of the ideal nation.
Hawthorne uses the word “whatever” to indicate the flightiness of the
original thoughts because he believes their concepts of virtue and
happiness were distorted
 How to Read Literature Like a Professor tells you to pay attention to #s –
this quote has a set of three to pay attention to: VIRGIN soil,
CEMETERY, PRISON… indicates three crucial factors to the
story… foreshadowing
Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” Cnt.
 “…the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and
other indications of age” (49).
 Imagery references the idea of a used, worn, traditional and stable
structure yet somehow ineffective to the greater powers of the earth
 (50) “ponderous iron-work” = diction, Hawthorne brings the
reader into the “wonderment” of this setting
 (50) imagery of old jail in a “New World” = juxtaposition
 “Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a
youthful era” – commentary on generational gaps & laws being
Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” Cnt.
 Wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its
delicate gems…Nature could pity and be kind to [inmates
coming or going into the prison]” (50)
 Symbolism & sets the tone
 Idea of a cycle
 Role of nature as the ultimate decider (Transcendentalism)
 Anne Hutchinson reference = bold move, praises her
progressive thought and her actions (standing up for what she
believes in)
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place”
•“Amongst any other population, or at a later
period in the history of New England, the grim
rigidity that petrified the bearded
physiognomies of these good people would
have augured some awful business in hand”
•“nature” “judge” – power of the natural
(transcendentalist thought)
•Diction is incredible… petrified the
bearded physiognomies – grave, old faces
of judgment
•“on the other hand, a penalty, which, in our
days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy
and ridicule, might then be invested with almost
as stern a dignity as the punishment of death
itself” (52)
•Something we might laugh at today would
be looked at as serious as death
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place”
•Early feminism
•“women, several of whom were in the crowd, appeared to take a peculiar
interest in whatever penal infliction might be expected to ensue” (52)
•Directly connected to this situation b/c it dictates their place in
•“man-like Elizabeth”
•Power in control typically go to men
•“a man in the crowd” asks “is there no virtue in women, save what
springs from a wholesome fear of the gallows?” - what are women made
•“a character of less force and solidity” (52) – morally weaker.
Chapter 2 “The Market Place” Cnt.
 Generational gap
 “coarser fibre in those wives and maidens of old English birth
and breeding than in their fair descendants…[every mother]
transmitted to her child a fainter bloom, a more delicate and
briefer beauty”
 What is beauty?
 Implying each generation of woman physically weaker, but morally…
 “‘Goodwives,’ said a hard-featured dame of fifty…” paragraph
demonstrates the older generation of “gossips” in demand of
harsh punishment for the young “hussy” (53)
 “a young wife” speaks out softly, says guilt is internalized and not
dictated by earthly punishments (53-54)
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” Cnt.
 Metaphors of the Child
 “because its existence, heretofore, had brought it acquainted only with the
gray twilight of a dungeon, or other darksome apartment of the prison” –
only knew darkness until brought into the light – enlighten – what will the
world have in store for the bastard child?
 #s!
 Hester Prynne holds a child who is only 3 months old… think holy trinity, this
idea will come again when we learn who the father is
 Puritan commentary
 “dismal severity of the Puritanic code of law” (54)
 Hester Prynne comes forward with “natural dignity and force of
character…as if by her own free will” (54) – strength (&sin?) comes from
her free will… is Hawthorne saying she’s not predestined?
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” Cnt.
 For adultery
 The problem with the scarlet a…
it’s too fancy according to older
 On-lookers noticed her beautiful
features and the letter on her chest
seemed to enhance her alluring
 Halo made of misfortune and
ignominy – sweet irony!
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” Cnt.
 Page 58 – comparison to the Virgin Mary
 “sinless motherhood”
 “infant at her bosom” … artists tried to create this scene
 Infant redeems the world…??
Religious Comparison
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”
 Important Characters:
 Hester Prynne, the sinner (adulterer), is a wife to an
Englishman (Roger Chillingworth). She had an affair with an
unnamed man and had a baby girl. She is now being publically
punished for her sin and condemned to a life wearing the letter
“A” over her heart.
 Roger Chillingworth comes to light in this chapter. He had been
captured by Native Americans and just arrived. He conceals his
identity and finds out Hester’s backstory at the market place.
 Intrapersonal
 Inner serenity & air of calmness
Chapter 3 “The Recognition” Cnt.
 Characters – Continued
 Reverend Dimmesdale, a young minister, known for
his “religious fervor” … wants Hester to reveal her
fellow adulterer’s name. He says that she should not
pity the man, but he is not forceful in his request.
 Governor Bellingham – will judge Hester and dictate
her destiny (!!)
 Reverend Wilson, another judge of Hester
 Pearl – Hester’s daughter
Chapter 3 “The Recognition” Cnt.
 This chapter is about making an example of Hester Prynne’s
acts. The goal of the judges is to publically humiliate her, but
Hester stands strong and wise.
 Public sermon focuses on the horrific effects of sin, and
Reverend Wilson frequently refers to the “A” on Hester’s
chest. The “A” is no longer beautiful in this chapter, but seems
to resonate with hellish colors…
Chapter 3 “The Recognition” Cnt.
 Both Bellingham and Wilson are self-appointed individuals
who use symbols, social status, and fear to promote their
 Books, religious texts and items
 Sermon that puts Hester down and raises them up
 Note interesting points:
 When Reverend Dimmesdale speaks of Hester’s silence:
“Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will
not speak!” (71) – what oddity do you notice?