Chapters 18-21 - Wayzata Public Schools

Report
THE SCARLET LETTER
CHAPTER NOTES 18-21
ADAPTED FROM:
Guelcher, William: THE SCARLET LETTER: STRATEGIES IN TEACHING: Idea Works Inc., Eagan
Minnesota, 1989.
Van Kirk, Susan: HAWTHORNE’S THE SCARLET LETTER: CliffszNotes. IDG Books Worldwide Inc.,
Forest City, California., 2000.
CHAPTERS 18-21
• In Chapter 18, Hester transforms
by shedding the symbols of
Puritan law: the scarlet letter and
the formal cap that confined her
hair.
• She (briefly) becomes the
passionate, voluptuous woman
who follows natural law and
expresses her love for
Dimmesdale.
• At this point, sunshine – which
previously alluded her, as so
cruelly noted by Pearl – now
follows her.
CHAPTERS 18-21
•
Taking off the scarlet letter allows
Hester to release her and
Dimmesdale from their earthly
prison.
• But there is one problem: Pearl.
• In this chapter, Pearl is almost one
with nature: the creatures of the
forest recognize a “kindred
wildness in the human child.” Even
the flowers seem to talk to her.
• If Hester and Dimmesdale are to
pass the test of natural law, they
must meet Pearl’s approval.
CHAPTERS 18-21
•
In Chapter 19, Pearl becomes a symbol
of her parents’ passionate act more
than ever.
• She is a constant reminder – like the
scarlet letter itself – of Hester’s sin.
• Pearl clearly disapproves of her
mother’s momentary attempt to forget
the past.
• Key imagery: Pearl’s image is perfectly
reflected in the brook that separates her
from Hester and Dimmesdale.
• As she bursts into a fit over the absence
of Hester’s scarlet letter, “it seemed as
if a hidden multitude were lending her
their sympathy and encouragement.”
CHAPTERS 18-21
• Chapter 20: “The Minister In A
Maze”: The chapter title refers to
Dimmesdale’s internal spiritual
battle.
• The formerly weak, defeated
Dimmesdale leaves the forest
with new purpose and energy.
• He is a man on fire, thinking
daring, irrational, and even
wicked thoughts.
• Even Mistress Hibbins – the old
witch – sees the difference in
him.
CHAPTERS 18-21
•
Hawthorne’s refined sense of irony
shines again:
• Chillingworth says the congregation
may find their ill pastor gone within a
year.
• Dimmesdale agrees: “Yea, to another
world.”
• We know Dimmesdale and
Chillingworth are talking about two
different places.
• When the reader knows something the
characters do not know: dramatic irony.
• Dimmesdale’s ability to lie to
Chillingworth comes from the same
place that inspires his final sermon: the
sermon of his life.
CHAPTERS 18-21
• Chapter 21: Illustrates difference
in public and private behavior.
• On this festive day, the people
“compressed whatever mirth and
public joy they deemed allowable
to human infirmity; thereby so far
dispelling the customary cloud,
that for the space of a single
holiday, they appeared scarcely
more grave than most other
communities at a period of
general affliction.”
CHAPTERS 18-21
• Even Hester shows little joy,
while inside she is tremendously
excited about leaving the colony
with Dimmesdale and Pearl.
• Pearl also demonstrates this
dichotomy: She describes
Dimmesdale as a sad man with
his hand always over his heart,
adding that she doesn’t
understand why Dimmesdale
doesn’t acknowledge her and
Hester “here, in the sunny day.”
CHAPTERS 18-21
• Hawthorne’s message: No
matter how far away the
three of them sail,
Dimmesdale can never be at
peace with Hester, or his
conscience unless he
publicly acknowledges his
part in their sin.
CHAPTERS 18-21
• This idea is further
cemented by Chillingworth’s
decision to accompany
Dimmesdale in the travels:
Dimmesdale can run, but he
cannot hide from the
punishment embodied by
his tormentor.
IMAGERY: LIGHT AND DARK
The interplay of light and
darkness is fundamental in
the novel.
Hawthorne “shadows”
every scene: The mingling
of light and shadow gives
the book visual imagery
that alludes to the larger,
grander conflict between
good and evil.
IMAGERY: LIGHT AND DARK
Consider Pearl’s wise observation in
Chapter 21, regarding Dimmesdale:
“What a strange, sad man is he! In the
dark nighttime he calls us to him, and
holds thy hand and mine, as when we stood
with him on the scaffold yonder! And in the
deep forest, where only the old trees can
hear and the strip of sky sees it, he talks
with thee…and he kisses my forehead,
too…But here, in the sunny day, and
among all the people, he knows us not; nor
must we know him!”
IMAGERY: LIGHT AND DARK
Sunlight and daylight can be seen
as the equivalent of openness,
honesty, and goodness.
Nighttime and shadow represent
concealment, secrets, and evil.
But wildness and evil are not
necessarily identical.
The forest, where Indians and the
Black man dwell, is also the abode
of nature.
IMAGERY: LIGHT AND DARK
As Pearl notes, in town, Dimmesdale
can mount the scaffold and enact a
mock penance only in darkest night.
He can freely be himself with Hester
only in the forest.
And in the heart of the forest’s
darkness, sunshine bursts through as if
to support the lovers’ liberty.
The forest, for all of its shadows, is the
symbol of the human heart and inner
self.
If the settlement stands for society, it
appears to be a society that neglects or
even outlaws the human heart.
IMAGERGY: LIGHT AND DARK
What emerges is a
novel built on a
world of symbolic
contrasts.
Every scene can
become a symbol or
metaphor.

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