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The Scarlet Letter5
THE SCARLET LETTER
The Custom House:
Hawthorne says that he writes to the whole world hoping that someone will
understand what he is talking about.
He goes on to speak about Salem, where his relatives have lived and died since its
existence. Over time Salem has become more of an instinct to his family, and has tried to escape, but always come back. His children were not born in Salem because he wanted to break free of the tradition. He compares people to plants in that if you do not transplant, future crops will be ruined.
He descries his forefathers as Puritans. They would not approve of his lifestyle as a
writer because it is to unproductive.
He then describes his return to Salem and his new job at the Custom House. His
employees are elderly veterans that both amused and pained the author. After the men found out he meant no harm they relax and spend their time telling stories.
Custom House Inspector- head leader of all custom houses, great physical condition
despite of old age, but had no brains. His father put him into his position. He has no memories of experiences, only food.
Collector- very old, strong spirit, his age has physically affected him, in war he was
brutal, but now he wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Surveyor- more in contact with his thoughts than with the real world, motto: “I’ll try,
sir!”, described as a rusty sword
Author’s title: Surveyor of Revenue
One rainy day he looks through old barrels of articles and finds a scarlet letter “A” and
a document describing the life of Hester Prynne. He claims that these serve as documents of proof for his novel. (These were never found and were probably made up to give the novel a historical sense.) He decides to write a book based on this. He does his writing under moonlight or firelight.
As he writes he realizes he must leave the Custom House. It’s way of producing a stable
life is addicting. It doesn’t allow you to “support yourself.” But then he is promoted to “P.P.” and decides to stay. Just as he begins to feel comfortable he was fired. Because of this he returned to writing. (Metaphor used: political guillotine.) He claims that although the story is somber, his mind-frame while writing remained cheerful.
He says he holds no grudges and that the Custom House people do not interest and
upset him anymore. He thinks that he will die and soon be forgotten in Salem. He also doesn’t think that future generations will find much of an interest in Salem, beyond the town’s water pump.
Chapter 1: The Prison Door
A crowd of men and women is gathered outside of Boston’s prison door. Although
Boston was originally designed as a Utopia, but the first few things to be built were the prison and the cemetery. He also says that the prison has been aged quickly.
Outside of the prison is a small lot with wild plants growing in it. The most important is
the rose bush. It offers comfort to prisoners being brought into jail and to people about to be executed. This rosebush has been kept alive in history and outlived the gigantic pines and oaks around it.
Chapter 2: The Market Place
The author starts the chapter with a crowd outside the prison gate. He explains that in
this time even minor violations and punishments were treated exactly the same as executions. Women of this time were not only larger physically, but were more forceful verbally as well. This is the main reason they dislike Hester, who is better looking than they are. They feel that her punishment should be severe, from a branding on her forehead to death.
Hester comes out of the prison and allows her three-month-old child to see natural light
for the first time. She then shifts her baby to her other arm to reveal a scarlet “A” on her. It is described as “artistically done,” “gorgeous,” and “elaborate.”
Hester Prynne- young, tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale, dark hair
that was “so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam,” deep black eyes, beautiful face, ladylike
Hester surprises the crowd by coming out with dignity and beauty instead of being
obscured. The crowd was also upset that her scarlet letter was so nice that it almost was a thing of pride instead of punishment.
She made her way into the market place and stood on the town scaffold. The crowd was
somber and grave. Hester soon begins to reminisce about different events in her life. She remembers her father and mother in England. She also remembers a man that was deformed that is connected to her going to Boston. The she goes back to reality and is finding it hard to believe that she is actually on the scaffold with her baby and the scarlet letter “A”.
Chapter 3: The Recognition
Hester looks over the crowd and is horrified to see an Indian with a disfigured man.
The man has a conversation with a man in the crowd. From this he learns that the deformed man had “grievous mishaps by sea” and has since been a prisoner of Indians. He is in town now to try to be redeemed out of his captivity. The man in the crowd then explains that the woman being punished is Hester Prynne. She had been the wife of a learned man in England who was to move to Massachusetts. This man sent his wife ahead to take care of affairs after she left. Hester arrived in Boston and two years go by without word from her husband. He is considered lost at sea. Hester eventually gets lonely and has a child with an unknown man in the colony. This is why she is being punished today.
Hester concentrates on the disfigured man and doesn’t hear her name being called by
Governor Bellingham- a gentleman advanced in years with hard experiences written on
John Wilson- the oldest clergyman of Boston, a great scholar, kind and genial spirit
Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale- a young clergyman, very striking aspect, white, lofty, and
impending brow, large, brown, melancholy eyes, and a mouth which was apt to be tremulous, kept himself simple and childlike
Dimmesdale had been chosen to give the child’s unknown father a chance to confess.
He asks Hester to name the father, but she refuses. After she continually refuses to give the father’s name, clergyman Wilson goes into a sermon on sin, during which Hester’s baby cries. Then Hester is returned to the prison once again. Her scarlet letter gleams on the prison wall before she finally goes away.
Chapter 4: The Interview
After Hester returns to her jail cell she is in a state of frenzy. Guards are worried she
might hurt herself or the baby so they call a physician to see her. The physician is the same person Hester was married to and had seen in the crowd.
As soon as he enters the cell he administers a medicine to comfort the baby. Then he
looks over Hester.
Roger Chillingworth (a.k.a. Mr. Prynne)- Husband of Hester’s that sent her ahead to
Boston but he never came. He was captured y Indians and has since learned medicines that are very advanced. He is physically deformed, one shoulder lower than the other.
He tells Hester he has no grudge against her, but he does against the baby’s father. He
asks her repeatedly, but she will not tell. He claims that it doesn’t matter if she speaks to him about it because he believes that the guilt will make him stick out from the crowd. Roger makes Hester swear to keep it a secret that he is alive, especially to the real father and she agrees. He then comments then comments that this will ruin her soul, not his.
Chapter 5: Hester at the Needle
Hester’s prison sentence is finally over. When she walks out of the prison alone this
time she realizes the reality of the situation. She decides to stay in Boston, even though she could easily flee. She feels a connection to the spot and feels that by staying she will purify herself and possibly receive redemption for her sin. She makes her home in a small thatched cottage on a peninsula in the outskirts of town. Over time children watch from a distance and then run away in fear.
To make money Hester begins to make garments for the upper class members of her
town. Her works are worn at major ceremonies and become the fashion. She also spends time making clothes for free to give to the poor as a way of penance. Hester herself wore course garments, while her baby was dressed nice.
Hester was still an outcast from society. She had grown patient to the way people scold
her when they buy her clothes. The poor people were not grateful and continued to torment her. Hester is hurt every time this happens. She tries to seek shelter in a church, but found the sermon about her. She always felt everyone looking at the scarlet letter.
Hester’s loneliness causes her imagination to run wild. She imagines that the scarlet
letter gives her an extra sense that can tell if others have sinned. She still believes that no one’s sin is as great as hers is. Also, stories and urban legends spread about her letter being magical and more than just cloth.
Chapter 6: Pearl
Hester chooses to name her baby Pearl because she was a great price and was
purchased with all her mother had. Pearl’s character sometimes worried Hester. She is not easily tamed by verbal restraints, but only by physical ones. Hester notices that Pearl sometimes seems incapable of feeling real emotions, as in her mother cries and Pearl laughs.
Pearl soon begins to hate the members of Boston. She will throw rocks at the children
who try to approach her. Instead of imaginary friends, she battles imaginary enemies. Hester thinks that her child is cursed and feels grief for Pearl.
Pearl has a fascination for Hester’s letter. Hester is very uncomfortable with this and by
the look of intelligence on Pearl’s face. Hester imagines that an evil spirit lives inside Pearl and sometimes looks out through her eyes. In a conversation with Pearl, Hester claims that God sent Pearl to Earth, but Pearl thinks Hester is playing a game and doesn’t believe her. In town the new rumor is that Hester’s child has no human father. Instead she is a demon child.
Chapter 7: The Governor’s Hall
When delivering a set of gloves to Governor Bellingham, Hester plans to speak with
him about the rumors that Pearl will e taken away from her. She brings Pearl along with her. Pearl is wearing a crimson dress that reminds Hester of her scarlet letter. On the way Pearl scares off children who were planning to throw mud at them.
The governor’s house was covered with a stucco mixed with glass to give it a glittery
effect. A servant answered the door. He was new to town and assumed the letter meant Hester was of great importance, so he allowed them to enter. When inside they admire the governor’s mansion, especially a suit of armor. When they look out a window to the garden they see the governor approaching with three other men.
Chapter 8: The Elf Child and the Minister
Governor Bellingham enters his home with Mr. Wilson, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale,
and Roger Chillingworth following. They approach Pearl and she introduces herself. They are amused until they find out she is Hester’s daughter. They try to convince Hester that Pearl would be better off in a different home, but Hester refuses.
Mr. Wilson is asked to question Pearl about who made her. Pearl makes up a story that
she was plucked off a rosebush, which infuriates the Governor. Hester, who just witnessed this, quickly grabs Pearl and says she will fight to the death to keep her. They are about to take Pearl away when Hester pleads to let Dimmesdale speak on her behalf. He does and convinces the others to let her keep Pearl.
Her business done, Hester leaves with Pearl. On their way out Mistress Hibbins invites Hester to go to the woods and meet the “Black Man.” Hester refuses, saying she must instead tend to Pearl.
Mistress Hibbins- Governor Bellingham’s bitter tempered sister, late executed as a
Chapter 9: The Leech
Some of Roger Chillingworth’s history is revealed. His reason for choosing a new
identity was to hide his relation to Hester. He learned how to make medicine out of herbs from his years with the Indians. When he started practicing in Boston as a physician he was the best in the town. He chose as his spiritual guide Reverend Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale was getting increasingly sick, noticeable by his paleness and clutching his heart at any excitement. This is when Chillingworth arrived in town just in time to treat him. The town had spread rumors that it was a miracle from Heaven.
Over time they grew closer together. Dimmesdale found Chillingworth’s new ideas
refreshing, but never spoke of things too unorthodox. They move in together and townspeople notice a change in Chillingworth. Now People see him as an evil being that Dimmesdale must overcome.
Chapter 10: The Leech and his Patient
Roger Chillingworth had begun his search for Pearl’s father originally f
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