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The Scarlet Letter


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The Scarlet Letter

  1. 1. A The Scarlet Letter
  2. 2. <ul><li>Hawthorne opens The Scarlet Letter just outside the prison of what, in the early 1640s, was the village of Boston. </li></ul>The Prison-Door
  3. 3. <ul><li>Ask yourself what you know about a novel that begins in a prison? </li></ul>The Prison-Door
  4. 4. <ul><li>You probably suspect you are reading the story of a crime already committed, of characters whose lives are already darkened by guilt and disgrace…. </li></ul>The Prison-Door
  5. 5. <ul><li>And, in the case of The Scarlet Letter… </li></ul><ul><li>... you are quite right. </li></ul>The Prison-Door
  6. 6. The Prison-Door <ul><li>Look carefully at the details of the opening scene: “The sad-colored garments” of the spectators; the prison-door itself, “Heavily timbered with and studded with iron spikes. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Prison-Door <ul><li>These details create a somber mood; they paint a cheerless picture. And they hint, as well, at a society that places punishment far above forgiveness on its scale of values. </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Prison-Door <ul><li>One note of color relieves the gloom. A wild rose bush Blossoms by the prison door. </li></ul><ul><li>The rose bush suggests a world beyond the narrow confines of the puritan community. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Prison-Door <ul><li>A world where beauty and vibrant color flourish and crime finds tolerance and pity. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>Upon finishing The Scarlet Letter in 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne read the manuscript to his wife, Sophia. </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>“ It broke her heart,” Hawthorne wrote, “and “sent her to bed with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Hawthorne originally intended The Scarlet Letter to be a short story but expanded it at the suggestion of his publisher. </li></ul>The Scarlet Letter Original Cover
  13. 13. <ul><li>The Scarlet Letter is peopled with characters who are meant to be the embodiments of moral traits, rather than realistic, living figures. </li></ul>The Scarlet Letter
  14. 14. <ul><li>The Scarlet Letter displays Hawthorne lifelong preoccupation with the themes of secrecy and guilt, the conflict between intellectual and moral pride, and the lingering effects of Puritanism. </li></ul>The Scarlet Letter Original title page
  15. 15. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>The year is 1642. </li></ul><ul><li>The place is Boston, a small Puritan settlement. Before the town jail, a group of somber people wait with stern expressions. </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Plot <ul><li>They are expecting Hester Prynne, a woman convicted of adultery. </li></ul>
  17. 17. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>You will not know it yet. But even this early, Hawthorne has marked the thematic boundaries of his novel: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>law and nature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>repression and freedom </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>“ The Market Place” is some curtain-raiser. In one vivid image, you have the whole story. The lines of conflict are drawn, the issues defined, the characters placed in relation to one another. </li></ul>
  19. 19. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>The image Hawthorne gives us is that of a young woman taken in adultery, and standing on a scaffold in the midst of a hostile crowd. </li></ul>
  20. 20. The Scarlet Letter <ul><li>This is Puritan Boston, where private wrongdoing is </li></ul><ul><li>public knowledge. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Credits <ul><li>Much of the text was taken from Barron’s Notes on the Scarlet Letter. </li></ul><ul><li>The graphics were scanned from an Illustrated Comic of the Scarlet Letter, screen shots from School, and the Hawthorne pages. </li></ul>