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Authors: Cassie Klepzig, Traci Cramer, QSierra Pierce

Introduction: The Custom House

external image SalemCustomTh.jpgNathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter is preceded by a brief essay, "The Custom House". One purpose in writing "The Custom House" is to explain how Hawthorne came to write the novel. It takes readers through the process of attaining the position, finding the letter, and getting inspiration to write the story behind the letter. Hawthorne also uses "The Custom House" to connect his lifestyle in nineteenth century Salem with that of the Puritans. Making this connection makes characters in the novel more believable, thereby drawing the reader into the novel. "The Custom House" also provides Hawthorne an outlet tin which to expound on his personal beliefs of Puritan life. By seeing his perspective, we can understand why Hawthorne creates his characters in the manner which he uses. His perspective also gives readers specific reasons for the reasons which he portrays in the novel.
"Though invariably happiest elsewhere, there is within me a feeling for Old Salem, which, in lack of a better phrase, I must be content to call affection. The sentiment is probably assignable to the deep and aged roots which my family has stuck into the soil.(Hawthorne 274)
I have had family in Illinois for as long as anyone I ask can remember. For the life of me I cannot understand why they put up with the wretched winters, the 5 feet of snow that stick around until June and by then is a nasty gray/brown color, or the sweltering summers. My grandmother complains about the weather all the time, but no matter how we try to convince her, she will not move. She seems to feel some need to stay there, where she grew up and where her mother grew up, and back and back until it blurs into history. This quote is about the odd, and often inexplicable, connection people feel to places they have always known. To places their family has always know. In a strange way some part of them as an affinity for it.

"Like the greater part of our misfortunes, even so serious a contingency brings its remedy and consolation with it, if the sufferer will but make the best, rather than the worst, of the accident which has befallen him."(Hawthorne 306)
This is what Hester does with the stigma that she must wear—the scarlet letter—and the people have a certain respect for her because of it. This contingency also came with another consolation, more than a realization of strength, a symbol of the beauty and joy that can result from tragedy. Her daughter Pearl became just that in her life. Though she also causes grief over the scarlet letter, more often than not, she merely makes it bearable. Hester sees that there is a chance of salvation, almost, in her daughter. This connects to the way that Hester views her daughter, and also her daughter’s actions in regards to the scarlet letter.

"It seemed to me, then, that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron.”
(Hawthorne 297)

I had a similar experience when I was meditating in the woods. I had been thinking about something that had been causing me pain, and troubling me. I tried to channel it out of me, and into something else. I had forgotten about this for a very long time, but one day I went back to that spot, and I felt like I was stepping on coals when I walked over it. I couldn’t figure out why, and I kept walking back and forth, even putting my hands on the ground there. Later that day I was reading through my journals as I often do, and picked up one that felt warmer than all the others…so I started flipping through the pages. And I found the journal entry I had written, describing how I felt, and where I was sitting, and why. The ability of the humans 6th sense is incredible in many ways. We can detect emotion that was felt by a person holding an object, or in a place.

Chapter One: The Prison Door


Prison_Door.jpg
"The Prison Door"


The title of the first chapter, “The Prison Door”, relates to the symbolism of the scarlet letter in the way that it holds much more meaning than first assumed. For example, the scarlet letter is a symbol of shame, sin, and scandal. It acts as a stigma helping the public produce a prejudice assumption of bad character. Likewise the prison door holds dark secrets in its shadows. People look at this door and their minds automatically strike the opinion that nothing behind that door can be good. Its purpose is to hide the evil from the outside world, in an attempt to keep the world safe from sin. These emblems of evil naturally warn others to stay away from what they mark or hide behind them. Also, just as the rose bush by the prison door is beautiful, the scarlet letters embroidery holds glamour in each stitch. Perhaps this is pointing out that there is beauty in regret because it makes them realize the wrong they’ve done, or simply just a taunting of hope lingering in the shadows.


Chapter Two: The Market Place




Someone falls to pieces, sleeping all alone
Someone kills the pain, spinning in the silence
To finally drift awaySomeone gets excited, in a chapel yard and catches a bouquet
Another lays a dozen, white roses on a grave
Yeah and to be yourself is all that you can do
Hey, to be yourself is all that you can do
Someone finds salvation in everyone, another only pain
Someone tries to hide himself, down inside himself he prays
Someone swears his true love until the end of time
Another runs away, separate or united, healthy or insane
And to be yourself is all that you can do, yeah
(All that you can do)
To be yourself is all that you can do
(All that you can do)
To be yourself is all that you can do
(All that you can do)
Hey, be yourself is all that you can do
Even when you've paid enough
Been pulled apart or been held up
Every single memory of the good or bad
Faces of luck
Don't lose any sleep tonight
I'm sure everything will end up alright
You may win or lose
But to be yourself is all that you can do, yeah
To be yourself is all that you can do
Oh, to be yourself is all that you can do
(All that you can do)

These lyrics relate to how Hester is portrayed in contrast to everything around her by the repitition of the phrase "to be yourself is all that you can do". This supports and justifies Hester's display of almost pride as she walks to the scaffold and stands before her fellow townspeople. Hester acts the way she does, and creates the stigma for herself that she does, because that is her way of stepping into and accepting what she has done and who it has made her. It also relates further to the differences between how she is acting, and how her partner in crime is acting during this act of punishment. The first lines depict two different people, one letting something get to them and the other moving on. I think this accurately portrays the differences between how Dimmesdale and Hester deal with the knowledge of having commited a sin. The lyrics also contrast actions and feelings that are simaler to those occuring in this scene. Dimmesdale hides and prays, while Hester will always wear and accept the mark upon her breast.

Chapter Three: The Recognition

The beginning of this chapter may be interpreted psychologically. Hester’s crime and her punishment allow that the townspeople live at Kohlberg’s fourth level of moral reasoning. This level pertains to the maintenance of social order. Views created in this level reflect needs of the society as a whole, rather than those of the individual. The man who explains Hester to Chillingsworth believes that Hester has done wrong; she therefore must be punished as an example. Her letter will make her “a living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved upon her tombstone” (Hawthorne 16). The reasoning involved is barely above that of children, where one bases one’s actions on the impending reward or punishment.

The chapter may also be taken as a feminist rebellion. Hester finds another man besides her husband, because her society dictates the need of a man. Her society turns on her, calling her an evil woman. In response to her punishment, Hester does not admit who is her partner in crime. Some may understand this as a defense for the unknown man; Hester is merely stating that men messed up her life, Pearl need not have dependence on one. The rebellion is also in the refusal itself. The Puritans taught that a woman must always be obedient; the obedient thing for Hester to do is to answer the inquiry. Hester’s stand against patriarchy is not well received, but triumphs anyway when the magistrates allow the anonymity of Hester’s partner.


The third way in which one may interpret this chapter is religiously. The magistrates give a harsh punishment to Hester, rather than kill her. Hester's life is spared because the murder of a potential widow is a sin worse than adultery. The magistrates would prefer also to punish the involved man, but cannot without knowing his identity. Pearl is the product of Hester's mortal sin; Hester feels it is right to bestow a Heavenly father on her Heavenly Punishment. This also allows that the punishment Pearl's father will receive is the most effective. If Pearl's father was punished 'properly', he could at least remember he had one good time. However, his punishment is entirely a guilty feeling, and therefore has more intrinsic value.


Chapter Six: Pearl

external image charlie_punk_by_Devils_Alibi.jpg

This picture of punk Charlie Brown represents pearl in a numerous amount of ways. For instance, just like Pearl, punk Charlie is not afraid to stand out. His style of clothing and hair represents Pearl's life style. Also the fact that this character has been changed shows that Pearl is not like all the "normal" children in town. If you look closely Charlie has a tattoo on his right ankle; i like to think of this as his stigma just as Pearl is forever marked by her mother's scarlet letter. Lastly, Charlie Brown's character is constantly asking questions like Pearl he is a very curious child.

Chapter Seven: The Governor's Hall "Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee."

(Hawthorne 54)
Hester and Pearl have a very interesting mother-daughter relationship. The scarlet letter has an impact on Hesters personality and mood, and therefore directly affects everything she does in life. This is seen most clearly in how she interacts with Pearl, and how Pearl acts. Pearl has an inexplicable and often times slightly unsettling amount of energy. It is only unsettling in the way of which it is sometimes expressed or what it is directed toward. Hesters perpetual lack of evergy, or joy, is often seen in Pearl as an equal but opposite reaction. Hester is depressed, she does not find joy in Pearls antics, and instead sees another form of her guilt and shame. This appears in Pearl as an intense curiosity, as well as an ability to pick up on things in peoples demeaners most can't. Because Hester is depressed, her relationship with Pearl is tiresome, and oftentimes she views her daughter as impish, or as a spirit sent to punish her for her sin. Hester cannot see the world or her child as it is, and treats them as such, with despair and lack of joy.

Chapter Eight: The Elf-Child and the Minister


Pearl is Hester's reason for being. Hester loves Pearl; she protects her and educates her. Hester accepts her new responsibility as divine retribution, nevertheless she does accept it. The question of Hester's guardianship of Pearl arises in this chapter. The townspeople make a good point about a shameful woman potentially rubbing off on an innocent child, but Hester needs this child for the sake of her own safety. When the men in the courtyard try convincing Hester to give Pearl up, Hester flies into a panic. Her daughter is the one who keeps her from the Man in the forest. She also notes, upon the remark of her scarlet letter, that her ignominy "daily teaches [Hester]... lessons whereof [her] child may be wiser and better" even in it scars Hester (Hawthorne 62). By wearing her mark of shame, Hester is the only lesson against adlutery Pearl will ever need. An education from the church would not convince Pearl in the same personal way. By providing the love and knowledge she has, Hester proves to be a good mother.



Chapter Nine and Ten: The Leech; The Leech and His Patient


This is a trailor for a documentary called "talhotblond:". Much like "The Scarlet Letter", this documentary is about hidden identities. They can also relate to eachother in that they both hold hidden secrets that are revealed in the end. In "Talhotblond:" the computer acts as the scarlet letter; the people see and hear what they want on the screne but on the other side things aren't what they seem. Also, towards the end of the relationship in "talhotblond:" the guy who has been creating a secret identity himself seeks revenge against the girl he's been talking to, just as Chillingworth is seeking revenge on someone who is closer to him than he thinks.


Chapter Eleven: The Interior of a Heart

"To the untrue man, the whole universe is false- it is palpable- it shrinks to nothing within his grasp. And he himself, in so far as he shows himself in a false light, becomes a shadow, or, indeed, ceases to exist."

Facebook meeting on safety with Ceop due in Washington

This article applies to the given quote. It is easier for people to lie on social networking sites; if someone is killed as a result of this lying the network should be held responsible for the death. When the network gets away with an apology, as in this article, the network proves to be lying about both security and sincerity. Many sites of this nature are either "shadows" (ex. Tokyopop) or seemingly nonexistent (Myspace). This article also relates to the townspeople in the novel. Dimmesdale conceals his secret as Chapman conceals his identity in the article. Chillingsworth will stop at nothing to hurt people, as pedophiles may stalk adolescents on social network sites.


Chapter Thirteen: Another View of Hester
scarlet.JPG
This picture demonstrates the way the townspeople feel about Hester by showing her as a sort of angel. They describe her as being able, and strong. THey have come to respect her strength. Hester, on the other hand, still feels the weights of sin and sham unpon her because she has to wear the letter, and people still treat her differently.


Chapter Eighteen: A Flood of Sunshine

Arthur Dimmesdale has changed his view of how he must live his life. By talking with Hester about what they have been going through, each on their own and in separate ways, he has found a certain freedom from his torment. He found a slight salvation in being able to lift the weight off of his soul and share it with another, who has the same affliction. “Do I feel joy again?...Methought the germ of it was dead in me!” (Hawthorne 157). The minister comes back from an almost coma-like state where he was a mask of what is pure and holy. The author starts to call him Arthur Dimmesdale because it is more personal, and finally, after seven years of being a distant being in Hester’s life, he suddenly comes into a full contact relation with her in the forest. It is almost like a rebirth, a re-giving of the name Arthur Dimmesdale, with which he will now live a different way. It is a casting aside of the formal, and a welcoming of the casual. It brings Arthur Dimmesdale down to the same level as Hester. They are together in sin and in name.

Final Assignments: Analysis and Opinions

We decided that Dimmesdale commited the biggest sin of all the main characters. The sin he commited, that was beyond anything Hester or Chillingsworth did, was that of telling a lie at the expense of others. When he did not stand up for Hester, and take on some of the blame for the sin she was being persecuted for, he commited something far beyond what had happened in the church. We believe that by accepting the weight of the blame, Hester in a way redeemed herself. Besides that she didn't know if her husband was still alive, so was she really responsible for her actions? Dimmesdale, in short, should have taken the blame with Hester. He helped her commit the sin. And in not accepting he, he lies, and denies a child of their father. We think this is especially horrible. It wasn't her fault but his actions punish her anyway.

We belive that Hawthorne decided to have Hester raise a girl for two main reasons. The first being that, girls are stereotypically more observent. Most of the ambiguous feelings toward Pearl stem from the fact that her observations on people make them nervous. She sees what they hide successfully from their fellow townsmen, while she picks up on it immediately and doesn't hesitate to comment on oddities she sees in society. The second main reason we decided Hawthorne chose to have Hester raise a girl was because she would feel a bigger duty to protect her than she would a son. Because she sinned, she would feel that her daughter would be susceptible to making the same mistake. This, in effect, would remind Hester more of the sin she commited everyday than raising a male child would.