The Story of the Harlet Who Wore Scarlet


Stephexternal image FF_384032_xl.jpg&w=180nie Stahle

Rexternal image FF_384032_xl.jpg&w=180ven E. White

Nexternal image FF_384032_xl.jpg&w=180dia Zefri


"I shall do better amongst other faces; in these familiar ones, it need hardly be said, will do just as well without me." (Hawthorne 309). In the last chapters of The Scarlet Letter, we predict that Hester will leave the town to relieve her of her burdensome lifestyle and to get away from the rude repartees being said towards her by her community. This quote indicates that it could be a possibility that the narrator of The Custom House introduction is suggesting that Hester toward the end of this novel will have an encounter with suicide, or something terrible happens turning things for Hester for the worst therefore ending Hester’s life. The menacing foreshadowing of this quote gives the impression of a dismal ending possibly connected with Pearl discovering who her Father is further ruining Hester’s attempt of a normal life in her Puritan society.

"He stood firmly on the pedestal of his gallant services; and, himself secure in the wise liberality of the successive administrations through which he had held office, he had been the safety of his subordinates in many an hour of danger and heartquake." (Hawthorne 278). In chapters 1-10 of the novel, Hester is accused to committing adultery which causes her community to perceive her as an outcast. Hester then feels as though she has to prove herself to be able to fit into society again. This quote relates to Hester, in that she indeed stood on a pedestal of shame due to her crime but also kept her dignity while being exposed.

"My conclusion was that he had no soul, no heart, no mind; nothing, as I have already said, but instincts; and yet, withal, so cunningly had the few materials of his character been put together, that there was no painful perception of deficiency, but, on my part, an entire contentment with what I found in him."(Hawthorne 283). This observation of a customs officer is similar to a modern day airport experience I had. While travelling through the Customs Desk of the London International airport, I encountered an officer who seemed to have no soul. Despite any kindness directed toward him, this officer was very unfriendly and frank. His countenance was miserable and angry. He was intimidating since he seemed impossible to please, yet he was doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing. The narrator of "The Custom House" acknowledges the stern, unhappy actions of the Customs Officer who he works with, but perceives it as perfection. He is not bothered by this man's attitude, probably because it is necessary for his job.

Chapter 1:

The title of Chapter One is "The Prison Door." The prison door, along with the rosebush beside it, relates to Hester's situation because by putting the "A" on her chest she is leaving everything nice and pretty and entering a prison realm both literally and figuratively. The rosebush is something pretty seen just before entering a gloomy, ugly confinement. The rose, probably a shade of red, parallels with the scarlet letter which represents both opposing sides of the situation: Hester before punishment, and Hester after punishment. Hester's stigma is similar to the yellow prison papers which Jean Valjean must carry as his punishment in Les Miserables. These objects create physical, cumbersome reminders of the crimes, which the characters of both of these novels try to overcome during their lifetime. Both characters are constantly reminded of their past jail time experiences despite their efforts to forget.

Chapter 2:

Let It Alone

By: Old Crow Medicine Show

While the traveling through this big iron world
It'll sometimes ask of you

To give Advice at certain times
And tell folks what to do

Well, at this time, I'm gonna tell you
What's the wisest plan

When it comes to mixing in with things
That you just don't understand, hmm

Let it alone, let it alone
If it don't concern you, let it alone
Don't go around putting on airs
And meddling in other folks' affairs
If you don't know, say so
Mind your own business and let it alone

Well, you see two people fighting
Them man and woman, say
You think that it's a crime for them
To carry on that way
Well, you think that you could stop that row
But just as you draw nigh
The lady with the poker
Strikes the gentleman across the eye

Let it alone, let it alone
If it don't concern you, let it alone
They know their business, all right, all right
They practice that way every night
If you go buttin' in, they'll break your chin
So mind your own business and let it alone

Well, you say that love's against you
And on your weary way
Well, lying in the gutter
A drunken man, we'll say
He's lying in the gutter
And you can tell that he's all in
But on his necktie plainly gleams
A great big diamond pin

Let it alone, let it alone
He's not your pal, so let it alone
The man is drunk, it may be true
But the diamond don't belong to you

So shut your eyes and eat some sighs
Turn around and beat it and leave it alone
The song "Let it Alone" relates to the beginning of the Scarlet Letter, through its message to gossipers. At the beginning of the novel, there is a group of women gossiping about Hester and her adulterous actions. The song is directed toward people, like the group of women in the novel, who like to gossip about things that are none of their business. Hester's situation was not relevant to the personal business of the gossiping women, so the message the speaker would send to the women would be to "let it alone" because it's not their business and Hester is "not [their] pal." Just as the song says, the women should not "go around putting on airs and meddling in other folks' affairs," because Hester's actions really do not affect them.

Chapter 3:

"The Recognition" is the title of Chapter Three.
P.S.S.H.-An Acronym for remembering:

Recognition of Puritan Society: During this chapter the clergymen, during Hester's trial for adultery, convey the strict morals of Puritan society. The clergyman also believes that Hester "should no longer hide the name of him who tempted [her] to this grievous fall" and argues that he is only trying to touch "the vileness and blackness of [her] sin" which draws her to the Black Man (Hawthorne 18). The rigid views of the Puritans was seen throughout the society and not just enforced by the leaders. Children during this time period also understood the moral rights and wrongs and what would prevail to God in the Puritan opinion. Also, Puritans have no private lives and are constantly involved with each others personal, "sinful" affairs.

Recognition of Shame: When Hester "kept her place upon the pedestal of shame" she recognized the lasting mark of her crime and felt exiled by the hostility of her community (Hawthorne 21). The actual scarlet letter emphasizes the impression Hester leaves on the public and is meant to degrade her.

Recognition of Husband: At the beginning of the chapter, Hester makes eye contact with a man that has "a slight deformity of the figure" who she recognizes right off the bat as her husband (Hawthorne 13). Her response to this is somewhat startled and concerned since he is disguised and not expected to be present. Her husband acknowledges her and she knows that he realizes that the rumors are true and Hester is in fact, an adulterer.

Chapter 6:

This flower growing in concrete represents Pearl because of the fact that she is a sinful blessing to Hester. The "sinful soil' that this "blessing" comes from is the concrete itself. Since flowers are not suppost to grow from concrete this photo aptly connects Hester's ideas about her daughter being born in an environment that she should not have been born into.

Chapter 7:

The quote "Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee," as Hester said to Pearl, relates to the clinically depressed in that they are always expecting someone else to make them happy instead of finding happiness within themselves. The clinically depressed are constantly putting themselves down and feel as if they cannot contribute anything towards others. This is what Hester demonstrates in this quote to Pearl, in saying that she is not able to give Pearl happiness because she is not able to conjure it up herself. Pearl must find happiness within to truly be happy, which clinically depressed people struggle with.

Chapter 8:

Hester is not an unfit mother by any means. No person should be defined by her previous mistakes unless they are extremely harmful. Hester's mistake of adultery was barely harmful in regard to Pearl since Pearl has a strong, healthy relationship with her mother. Pearl even cried "I am Mother's child,"despite the mocking response of the clergyman (Hawthorne 61). The only harm cast on Pearl is the cruel mockery of her and her mother by the Puritan society, which Pearl seems to weigh with a grain of salt. When Mr. Wilson attempts to "examine" Pearl, she refuses to answer his question immediately and when she finally does, she gives her own idea of where she came from as an act of individualism. While Pearl does have a devious temper within her, Hester is assured that Pearl's outrageous moments are overridden by her tender, loving moments since Pearl was given "in requital of all things else," and not as a stigma (Hawthorne 63). Hester argues with the minister that "Pearl keeps [her there] in life," and she would die before she gave her up (Hawthorne 63). These are words spoken only by a mother is happy to be a mother and views her child as a blessing each and every day. If Hester were unfit as a mother, Pearl would absolutely resent her, and this feeling would be returned by Hester.

Chapter 9-10: SPOILER ALERT!Easy A

In the movie "Easy A," the character list and plot correlates to The Scarlet Letter. Throughout the movie, lies are told, adultery is committed, society's harshness is revealed, and Hester Prynne's story is still present in modern day life. In the novel Dimmesdale and Chillingworth have relationships with Hester that differ. The two characters are also portrayed in the movie. Two characters in the film have a similar relationship to that of Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. In the film the guidance counselor Mrs. Griffith commits adultery with a high school student named Micah. Her husband Mr. Griffith is Olive's, the protagonist, favorite teacher. In consideration of Mrs. Griffith's and Micah's sinful relationship, Micah plays Dimmesdale and Mr. Griffith plays Chillingworth. Micah feels guilty about his actions and does not take responsibility for them, so instead of jeopardizing Mrs. Griffith's marriage and career, he holds Olive accountable for the STD he catches from Mrs. Griffith. In contrast to Chillingworth, Mr. Griffith does not seek vengeance, but emotionally, both are victims.

Chapter 11:

80,000 cheer pope at London prayer vigil

The Pope's apology to the world for sexual abuse cases within the Catholic church parallels the guilt of Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale carries the shame of his sin around with him, though he is not open about it. He privately holds responsibility for his sin as a Puritan clergyman. As the highest leader of the Roman Catholic church, Pope Benedict takes public responsibility for the actions of all clergymen involved in the sex abuse scandal. If Dimmesdale were to make a public apology for his adultery, the reaction of the Puritans would be similar to the reaction the Pope experienced in London. Dimmesdale would feel better himself to both literally and figuratively "get it off his chest," but also face criticism and degradation from many Puritans for sinning. By not sharing his sin, Dimmesdale experiences the "agony with which this public veneration tortured him," every time the memory of his adulterous act crosses his mind (Hawthorne 94). In the article,the Pope relates to the burden of covering up sin when he acknowledges that "the Church was slow to deal with the problem.". In both of these cases, prominent, well respected, Church leaders are faced with sinful scenarios that they must be responsible for. Both personally experience the effects of the cumbersome crimes, the only difference so far being that Dimmesdale has not gone public with his actions yet.

Chapter 13:

An Original Poem: Adulterer and Sinner

By: Nadia Zefri, Stephanie Stahle, and Raven E. White

A minister named

D immesdale did not

U se a condom and a

L ittle child was born.

T his was

E ver so

R aunchy and

E specially damaging to Hester's

R eality

S he raises the child I n strife and success.N athaniel Hawthorne made Pearl a N ow society was cruel and Hester "rose" above it (pun intended) E ven though it was tough she stays greatful.

R emember Hester Prynne and the strength she held within.

Chapter 18:

In the scene where Dimmesdale and Hester meet in the forest, the outside image of Dimmesdale is changed from a priest, into a companion. He becomes Arthur Dimmesdale when the friendship between he and Hester is manifested. During their meeting in the forest, they are shown on a personal level, rather than the formal level of priest and parishioner. By using Dimmesdale's first name, he recognizes the characters on a personal level.

Final Assignments:

A topic of discussion about the novel is the question of why Nathaniel Hawthorne established the character Pearl as a female, and not a male. His reasoning for choosing a female is probably influenced by his hopes of holding Hester's child at the same standards that Hester is held to. If Hester's child were male, he would still have to face the Puritan standards, but in the area of sexuality, society would not be as harsh on him. Since Pearl is female, she is more closely related to her mother in the eyes of the Puritans. They see her as a miniature Hester more than as Hester's offspring and expect her to follow in Hester's footsteps somewhat. Since Pearl's father is unknown to the public, there is not a male father figure who Hester's son could be compared to should she have had one.

Of the many troubled characters, Dimmesdale committed the worst sin. By hiding his adultery, he lied to the townspeople and hurt himself. He literally worried himself to death trying to decide how to amend his sin. By keeping his guilt within, and feeling as if he had not fully experienced his consequences, he allowed his sin to take control of his life, driving him into a horrid mental state. As a minister, he acted hypocritically, making his sin worse since he did not practice what he preached. While Hester and Chillingworth acted sinfully, they did not damage their own self worth as much as Dimmesdale did and allowed forgiveness on the levels of self and society.

 Group Extra Credit:

In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," the protagonist Andrew Dufresne is convicted of the murder of his wife and his wife's lover and is sentenced to a lifetime in the Shawshank Prison. The themes in the movie are similar to that of the novel The Scarlet Letter. Andy Dufresne's wife was cheating on him committing adultery which is a sin as well as the murder of his wife and the other man. Lying and deception as well as temptation and sin are relevant in both "The Shawshank Redemption" and The Scarlet Letter. In Popular Culture, ranging from film to text, themes about sin and the consequences that go along with sin (even when wrongfully accused) are usually interwoven into the plot.