Scarlet Letter


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Scarlet Letter

  1. 2. Historical background <ul><li>The novel,written in 1850,is set in 17 th -century puritan Boston. The puritans held a rigid calvinistic conception of all men as sinners and saw themselves as the “elect”,God's chosen people. Some of the main elements of the puritan doctrine are: </li></ul><ul><li>A strict conformity to religious rules, </li></ul><ul><li>An austere way of living which made work rather than pleasure the puritan's main occupation, </li></ul><ul><li>A belief in individual conscience as sufficient for the individual's salvation. </li></ul>
  2. 3. Nathaniel Hawthorne <ul><li>He was born in Salem,Massachusetts,in 1804. He came from a Puritan family which had played a prominent part in New England's history;among his ancestors were some of the judges of the witch trials in Salem in the 17 th century. Hawthorne heavily felt the psychological burden of this family background,though he also took from it the setting and themes of his novels and tales. </li></ul>
  3. 4. Plot <ul><li>While her husband is away, Hester Prynne comitts adultery and gives birth to a baby girl, called Pearl. For this she has to wear the scarlet letter. </li></ul><ul><li>Hester's husband takes up the assumed name of Chillingworth and discovers that Hester's lover is the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. </li></ul><ul><li>Dimmesdale lacks the courage to confess his sin though he loves Hester and is almost driven to madness by this combination of sense of guilt and love. </li></ul><ul><li>After seven years Hester forgives Dimmesdale and suggest they should go to Europe,but Dimmesdale refuses and -after making a public confession-dies in Hester's arms. </li></ul>
  4. 5. Characters <ul><li>Hester Prynne: Is a woman characterized by a passionate nature;the extraordinary circumstances that happened to Hester make her become a social outcast but also a stronger and indipendent woman. For this reason she could be considered a protofeminist figure. </li></ul><ul><li>Roger Chillingworth:The missing husband of Hester Prynne. He is a cold and inhuman man,whose soul porpouse is take revenge of Arthur Dimmesdale.He is shown to bw an evil character. </li></ul><ul><li>Arthur Dimmesdale: Was the secret lover of Hester. He spent the seven years since his sin,trying to repent. He wore down his body with his penitence. In the end,he frees himself from his guilt by admitting his sin publicly. </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>Pearl: “Pearl is the very brightest little jet of flame that ever danced upom the Earth”(Hester). </li></ul>
  6. 7. Themes <ul><li>Sin,knowledge and the human condition:The story of Hester and Dimmesdale recalls the story of Adam and Eve becouse,in both cases,sin results in expulsion and suffering,but also in knowledge-specifically in knowledge of what it means to be human. </li></ul><ul><li>The nature of evil: The book argues that true evil arises from the close relationship between hate and love.Evil is found in the revenge of Chillinworth or in dimmesdale when he doesn't aknowledge publicly his doughter. </li></ul><ul><li>Identity and society:Hester's behaviour is premised on her desire to determine her own identity rather than to allow others to determine it for her. </li></ul>
  7. 8. Motifs <ul><li>Civilization versus wilderness: There is an opposing behavioural systems between town and forest. The town represents civilization,a space where transgressions are punished,while the forest is a space of natural authority. Hester can find in her cottage,which lies apart from the settlement and at the edge of the forest,a place where it is possible to create for herself a life of peace. </li></ul><ul><li>Night versus day: Alternation between sunlight and darkness is emphasized in the novel. Night is the theme when inner natures can manifest themselves; during the day interiority is once again hidden from public view. </li></ul>
  8. 9. Symbols <ul><li>Evocative names: Names are evocative of phisical and psychological characteristics. Chillingworth is cold and inhuman,Dimmesdale suggests “Dimnes”-weakness and indeterminacy. </li></ul><ul><li>The scarlett letter: Is meant to be a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester. </li></ul><ul><li>The meteor:While Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl,a meteor traces out an “A” in the night sky. Theese symbols as the meteor, in this novel are taken to mean what the beholder wants them to mean. </li></ul>
  9. 10. <ul><li>Pearl: Pearl is a sort of living version of her mother's scarlet letter. She's a reminder of Hester's “sin”,but she's also a blessing. </li></ul>
  10. 11. Style <ul><li>The scarlett letter is one of the finest novels in american literature. Its structure is tight,with all of the events interrelated and skillfully integrated into logical sequence. </li></ul><ul><li>The style of the Scarlet letter is precise,descriptive and formal. Another element of Hawthorne's style is his combining of historical characters with fictional characters; this is achieved also through the device of the preface. The story is told by a third person omniscent narrator. </li></ul>
  11. 12. Hawthorne and Manzoni <ul><li>It is possible to compare Hawthorne and Manzoni. The “scarlet letter” and “I promessi sposi”,infact,are both historical novels and both the stories are set in the 17 th century. </li></ul><ul><li>Both the authors talk about trials. Manzoni writes about the plague-spreaders who were tried because people thought they brought plague;Hawthorne tells about Hester,who stood trial for adultery. In both novels readers can find some considerations about evil. For Manzoni evil can be won with God's help. For Hawthorne sin marks who committ it for the eternity and guilty people must atone for their sins as long as they live. </li></ul>