Language and Composition
Mountain High School
Calum Clark Date 11 December 2017 Period 2
MAJOR WORKS DATA SHEET
The Scarlet Letter
of Publication: 1850
what makes this work an example of this genre. The
overarching conflict of the novel is Hester’s belief that you should be
married for love, rather than for your family’s needs or wants, or for
Biographical Information about the
(Include relevant reasons for writing
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father died when he was only 4 years
old, and so his mother raised him alone in Salem, Massachusetts. He attended
Bowdoin College, and graduated it 1854. His wife was Sophia Peabody, and they
had 2 children. After he could no long support his family through writing, he
worked at the Custom House in Salem. Hawthorne died in 1864.
Based on the Puritans, the novel criticizes their beliefs
and strict society. They are commonly thought of as the founders of America,
but Hawthorne puts them in a very negative light. Despite initially settling
in the New World in 1620, the Puritans still had a large population into
Hawthorne’s time growing up, impacting is view of them in a negative way.
Critics’ Response to Author/Work
The initial response to Hawthorne’s Novel was near
unanimously negative. As Hester Prynne was seen through the novel as the
protagonist, The Scarlet Letter
seemed to promote adultery, as the main argument focused on marrying for
love, and how Hester was not in the wrong.
Summary: (Include elements of plot, most importantly the climax).
humiliated at the beginning of the book, for committing adultery. Having gone
to America to wait for her husband, Hester had a child before he arrived. The
father of her daughter, Pearl, remains unknown, and she will not disclose who
it is, so the blame lies solely on her. The town’s pastor, Arthur Dimmesdale,
tries to get Hester to open up, but Hester keeps her secret, and so she is
made to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest, for adulterer. Hester’s husband then
comes to town and discovers the truth about Pearl, and creates a fake
identity to try and find the father. Hester is the only one who knows his
identity, but is sworn to secrecy. Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband,
after some unsuccessful looking, moves in with Arthur Dimmesdale to help with
his sickness, as Chillingworth is a doctor. The two become good friends, and
Chillingworth discovers that it was Arthur who was the man responsible, and
was Pearl’s actual father. Soon after, Dimmesdale makes a public speech,
announcing his confession, with Hester and Pearl watching. She asks him about
the confession, but he cannot yet bring himself to explain it to his
daughter. At that same time, a meteor streaks down, making an ‘A’ across the
sky, similar to Hester’s. She later planned a meeting with Arthur, but he
gave a speech confessing his sins before they were to meet, and in revealing
a scarlet letter on his chest, died. Shortly after, Hester and Pearl leave
town. They come back towards the end of the novel
4-6 recurring stylistic/rhetorical devices:
Cite examples of those devices:
symbolizes Hester’s sin with the thorns, and the ‘beautiful’ result in
and fragile beauties” (46)
appeared… like a black shadow emerging into sunshine” (49)
was heard to speak of Sir Kenelm Digby, and other famous men” (110)
was a scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with
skill was called in aid to embroider the white veil which was to cover
the pure blushes of a bride” (76)
not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe
me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand
there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than
to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him,
except it tempt him–yea, compel him, as it were–to add hypocrisy to
had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”
“Love, whether newly born or aroused from
a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so
full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.”
anything, save to lie down and die!”
is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love
be not the same thing at bottom.”
merely graceful attributes are usually the most evanescent.”
Explain Significance of Each Quote:
is being persuaded to tell the name of the sinner who is Pearl’s father, but
Hester stands her ground. The quote shows the emphasized strength she
who is alluded to in this quote, had not understood the full impact of her
decision, and the weight it carried, until she was free of it.
shows Hawthorne’s main argument through his novel, as the idea of love’s
importance becomes prominent.
begs Arthur to live, and to make a new name for himself. It shows that she
truly did love him, and could not bear him dying.
quote questions the meaning of emotions, and how love and hate are so closely
graceful is soon forgotten, it is the negative that is remembered.
Hester committed adultery with/ Hester’s lover
struggle of having committed adultery is the main theme, as the novel
questions the morality of marrying for duty or for family, rather than for
intelligent, and accepts her mother for who she is. She prefers to be
around her true father than Chillingworth
his crime, and from seeing Hester go through the suffering. He finds the
church more important though, and so he will not confess his sin.
He is looking
for revenge on the man who sinned with Hester, and uses being a doctor
to gain trust.
Significance of Opening Scene
Cite and Explain 3+ elements of
cottage signifies a safe space through the novel. Hester feels as though she
was not wrong to have Pearl, and that in her home, she is not judged for her
was almost uniformly puritan, and Hawthorne criticizes them harshly with his
novel. Salem represents an old way of thinking, that discriminates and does
not allow for what is important.
church is a place of shame for Hester. As the community believes she has
sinned against God, she receives blame and emotional torture for committing
opening scene shows Hester’s loss of innocence, as she has had a child
without her husband, and she realizes the true consequences of her actions.
As she first stands trial for her sins, it is apparent that she is no longer a
child. During the trial, Arthur near begs her to reveal her secret lover,
whom he is, so that he does not have to confess, but she refuses to give him
up. As punishment, she is sentenced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ for ‘adulterer’ on
her chest for life.
Significance of Climatic/Pivotal
The scene in which Dimmesdale confesses to the town shows
his guilty conscience, and how it overcame him. Chillingworth’s torture had
driven him (unintentionally) to where he could no longer stand it, thus his
confession. Chillingworth is sent into a state of madness from this, as he
could not enact his revenge. In this scene, the three, having suffered
separately, come together, and, as Arthur dies, Hester cries out “shall we
not meet again?”
Cite and explain 3+ symbols
stands for the purity of love. Despite Hester’s act being illegal, Pearl
stands to show the value that came of it.
scarlet ‘A’ on Hester represents her sins and mistakes, but later it stands
for how she overcame them.
scarlet ‘A’ on Arthur Dimmesdale shows that despite never being outed as the
sinner, he felt the need to punish himself for his sin.
Significance of Closing
Chillingworth dies by the scaffold, which concludes the
scaffold motif present throughout the book, a symbol of confession. The
closing scene focusses on the deaths of Hester and her husband, who are
buried together. However, they were buried slightly apart, showing the
Puritans’ beliefs that they were wrong in their doings, and that they should
not converse in the afterlife.
Include and explain 3 specific
conflicts within this work.
vs Self: Arthur Dimmesdale is in a constant inner struggle between his duty
to the church and the people, and his secret love for Hester.
vs Man: After finding Hester’s lover, Chillingworth mentally tortures Dimmesdale
until he is driven near mad.
vs Society: The entire community stands against Hester and Pearl after Hester
is convicted of adultery
Express and explain in detail at
least two themes within this work.
(This is hard! Be original!)
of the main themes in The Scarlet
Letter is sin. The sin of Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale is an allusion, in
its prime, to the sin of Adam and Eve. Despite being on different conflicts,
they both involve being tempted, and, in having sinned, having to live with
the shame of said crime for their respective lives. In both, expulsion is the
end cause from the sin, and they must overcome it. Hester and Arthur
struggled to overcome their sin, and in confessing, Dimmesdale dies upon the
prominent theme is the idea of evil, and what represents it. Dimmesdale,
Hester, Chillingworth, and Pearl are, in a way, symbols of evil, as each has
sinned, as Pearl is the product of a sin. However, as the story progresses,
Arthur and Hester appear to be more well-meaning and good people, who
followed what they believed was right, whereas Roger Chillingworth was
evidently the antagonist. He was so set on revenge, not out of love, but
hate, that he embodied the true essence of evil.
Write a paragraph analyzing
relevance/irrelevance to our lives today.
Despite having been
written in the mid-19th century, The Scarlet Letter still is relevant in today’s modern society. With
divorce rates being high, the conflict of adultery and ‘cheating’ plays a major
role. According to Hawthorne, adultery is not a sin if it is done for love, as
Hester did. Because despite being condemned by the Puritans (whom Hawthorne is
critiquing), Hester and Dimmesdale are shown to be the protagonists, and this
could be applied to todays modern society.