Chapters 1-4 - Wayzata Public Schools

Report
THE SCARLET LETTER
CHAPTER NOTES 1-4
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.
CHAPTERS 1-4
• The rose bush: “It may serve, let us
hope, to symbolize some sweet moral
blossom, that may be found along the
track, or relieve the darkening close of
a tale of human frailty and sorrow.”
• What does it represent? How
does it provide contrast to the
surroundings (the prison, weeds)
• What is the prison compared to?
• What might its location outside
the prison door represent?
CHAPTERS 1-4
Note, too, that while the
colony is still young,
already the prison appears
old.
The “New Jerusalem”
already has experienced
enough sinful behavior
that it felt compelled to
isolate the “sinners” from
the “saved.”
CHAPTERS 1-4
How is Hester physically
described?
Name two traits or
emotions she has or feels.
We see two physical
symbols of Hester’s sin.
What are they?
What is Pearl a product
of ?
CHAPTERS 1-4
• What is the purpose of
the scaffold?
• Two notable landmarks:
the prison and the
cemetery
• All societies succumb to
two realities: sin and
death/destiny
CHAPTERS 1-4
What is the most noticeable aspect
of the scarlet “A’?
What other red symbol have we seen
so far?
Red is associated with Hester’s sin,
but remember Hawthorne’s take on
the rose bush among the gloomy
surroundings: “a token that the deep
heart of Nature could pity and be
kind to” prisoners entering and
exiting the prison door.
CHAPTERS 1-4
•
Let’s re-read the first paragraph of
Chapter 2
• What seems to be the consensus about
Puritan character?
This reveals Hawthorne’s critical view of
Puritan society.
The pious women who condemn Hester are
frightening
Even the kinder, younger woman has
brought her child to witness the
punishment.
Hawthorne alludes to one of the
absurdities of Puritan culture: In this
absolutist mindset, all sins are treated
equally. The disciplining of an unruly child
would be treated with the same solemnity
as hanging a witch.
CHAPTERS 1-4
• A lot of symbolism in
Chapter 2
• The town crier (beadle)
walks with staff
symbolic of religious
authority: He is
described as “grim and
grisly,” much like the
atmosphere and society.
CHAPTERS 1-4
Note, too: “Had there been a Papist
among the crowd of Puritans, he might
have seen in this beautiful woman...with the
infant at her bosom…an object to remind
him of the image of the Divine
Maternity.”
In comparing Hester and her baby to
the Madonna and Holy Child,
Hawthorne suggests that grace and
sin are the inverse image of each
other.
The love of sinner and saint is the
same love.
CHAPTERS 1-4
Two other key
characters make
their physical
appearance in
chapter 3:
Dimmesdale and
Chillingworth.
CHAPTERS 1-4
Chillingworth has four options:
1. He can admit his true identity,
forgive his wife, and stand by her
in disgrace.
2. He can ignore the whole situation
and go on living his life without
revealing his identity.
3. He can reveal his identity and
bring further charges against
Hester, asking for a divorce on the
charge of adultery.
4. He can maintain silence but work
to revenge himself against the
person who seduced his wife.
CHAPTERS 1-4
• He becomes obsessed
with revenge: of
tormenting the man who
had this adulterous affair
with his wife.
• This passion for
vengeance will consume
him.
• Chillingworth’s misshapen
body symbolizes the evil
in his soul.
CHAPTERS 1-4
• Dimmesdale’s speech to Hester
(p.63) is full of double meaning:
He chastises her for not publicly
naming her lover, while making a
personal plea to name him
because he is too morally weak to
do so.
• Note, too, the irony in Rev. John
Wilson’s entreaty to Dimmesdale
to speak to Hester: “Good Master
Dimmesdale, the responsibility of this
woman’s soul lies greatly with you.”
CHAPTERS 1-4
Author Susan Van Kirk:
“When (Dimmesdale) then
goes on to charge her with
naming the transgressor, we
understand that he is privately
pleading with her to expose
him publicly and thereby help
ensure (Dimmesdale’s)
salvation, for without public
repentance, salvation is not
attainable.”
CHAPTERS 1-4
Understanding Dimmesdale:
In living our life, most of us have
roles thrust upon us by society.
What are some of your roles?
When we accept those roles, we have
to modify something of what we are.
The key question becomes: Are our
individual personalities simply the
sum total of roles, or is there a basic
person which underlies the roles?
CHAPTERS 1-4
• Dimmsedale has one of the prize
roles in the community: spiritual
leader.
• We have two Arthur
Dimmesdales: Pastor of the
Boston Church, and man and
person.
• Will he prize his own identity
(and his relationships) over his
role as community shepherd? Or
will he hide under that role?
CHAPTERS 1-4
• Chapter 4 is heavy with dialogue,
which lets us learn more about
the characters through their own
words and interaction.
• We learn that Chillingworth is a
“scholar” and a man of books –
to the point where he feels some
remorse, as it damaged his
marriage to Hester.
• Their conversation in her cell
ignites Chillingworth’s
development as one of the
novel’s symbols of evil.
CHAPTERS 1-4
• One of Hester’s redeeming
qualities: honesty
• She makes it clear to
Chillingworth that she never
loved him.
• Hester chooses to honor his
request for her silence; she has
wronged him through her
adultery and does not want to
bring any disgrace upon him.
• But she has no idea what he has
in mind.
CHAPTERS 1-4
• What does he have in mind?
• He seems to have remorse for
tying Hester into their loveless
marriage: He seems to bear no ill
will toward her.
• So why does he vow to pursue
her guilty partner?
• As a scholar, is it just his nature
to answer unanswered questions?
• Is it just a question of pride?
CHAPTERS 1-4
• Or is it that he feels somehow
inferior to the unknown person?
• He owns a certain sense of moral
and intellectual superiority.
• But as a man who, feeling cheated
by nature because of his
deformity, he must now prove his
superiority over the other person.
• Chillingworth never indicates he
wants to expose the adulterer: He
wants to possess that person’s
soul.
YOUR SCARLET LETTER
On Thursday, be prepared to discuss the
question:
Think of a time when you made a bad choice,
really screwed up, or “sinned” (however you
define it), resulting in feeling guilty. How did you
respond to your situation? What was the effect of
the guilt? What was the ultimate punishment?

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