The Scarlet Letter<br />By Nathaniel Hawthorne<br />
“I believe that The Scarlet Letter, like all great novels, enriches our sense of human experience and complicates and humanizes our approach to it.”<br />from Solitude, Love, and Anguish: The Tragic Design of the Scarlet Letter by Seymour L. Gross<br />
Historical Context<br />Boston Colony founded 1630<br />John Winthrop (leader)<br />Puritans wanted to “purify” the Church of England of all traces of Catholicism in liturgy, theology, and church organization <br />Recognized the Bible as the sole source of religious authority<br />Maintained a theocracy<br />Believed in predestination or Doctrine of the Elect <br />Inflicted public punishments to deter others from straying from righteousness (hanging, whipping, humiliation, etc,)<br />
Nathaniel Hawthorne<br />Hawthorne once said: “I do not want to be a doctor and live by man’s diseases, nor a minister to live by their sins, nor a lawyer and live by their quarrels. So, I don’t see that there is anything left for me but to be an author.”<br />
About the Author<br />Born July 4, 1804 in Salem, Mass.<br />Reclusive at times<br />Served as a magazine editor<br />Worked in the Salem Custom House<br />Lived at Brook Farm<br />Wrote Twice-Told Tales, The House of Seven Gables, The Scarlet Letter, etc.<br />Married Sophia Peabody and fathered Una (who became the model for Pearl)<br />Served as the United States Consul to Liverpool<br />Died in 1864 <br />Buried in Concord, Massachusetts<br />Great-great-great-great grandfather, John Hathorne, was judge at Salem witch trials<br />
Plot/Setting<br />The novel is set in the mid 1600s in Boston, Massachusetts.<br />The plot encompasses a seven year period.<br />The plot involves the love triangle of wife-lover-husband.<br />The major theme of the novel is developed in the context of good vs. evil.<br />
Point of View<br />Third-Person Omniscient…Hawthorne reveals the inner and outer workings of the characters and provides social criticism, history, and psychology.<br />
Characters<br />Hester Prynne- wearer of the scarlet letter<br />Pearl- child of Hester; living symbol of Hester’s sin<br />Roger Chillingworth- learned scholar; doctor<br />Arthur Dimmesdale- admired young minister<br />Governor Bellingham- governor and magistrate of Massachusetts Bay Colony<br />Rev. John Wilson- senior minister of colony<br />Mistress Hibbins- Gov. Bellingham’s sister<br />
Major Symbol<br />The scarlet letter itself is the central symbol. It changes meaning for the characters in the novel as Hester’s character changes. The A becomes a pathway to redemption for some characters as well. Watch the many ways Hawthorne uses the scarlet A as a symbol…<br />
The Custom House<br />Hawthorne claims to have gotten the idea for this novel from the papers of Jonathan Pue. Among the papers, Hawthorne allegedly found an embroidered scarlet A and information on Hester Prynne.<br />
The Custom House<br />Describes the interior/exterior of the Custom House<br />Describes Hawthorne’s feelings about his native town of Salem<br />Makes critical comments about the Whig party/ reveals Hawthorne’s involvement as a Democrat<br />Describes his early attempts to write Hester’s story.<br />
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