The Scarlet Letter
1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read.
This novel is about a woman named Hester Prynne who is accused of committing adultery and having a child with a man who was not her husband. She is sentenced to wear a scarlet letter for the rest of her life and is asked to reveal the father but she refuses. Hester’s husband who was believed to be dead is actually alive and plans to seek revenge on the man (the town minister: Arthur Dimmesdale) who had the affair with Hester. The rest of the novel is filled with revenge and guilt.
2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.
The main theme I saw in this novel was that of the identity that society seems to assign to each character, whether they like it or not. An obvious example is with Hester Prynne who is forced to wear the scarlet letter, or move to a different town and forget about the letter. Hester refuses to leave town and to some this may seem odd because she could live a normal life, but to her it makes perfect sense. Leaving town would give the notion that society had won, instead she keeps the letter and wears it as a reminder of who she is and how her past actions/sins have made her who she is.
3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).
During the time this novel was written, Puritans were renowned for their morality and religious intolerance. In the Scarlett Letter, Hawthorne through his tone shows his views on Puritan society in a disapproving way.
“being of the most intolerant brood” page 86
“the blackest shade of Puritanism” page 211
“Meagre, indeed, and cold was the sympathy” page 47
4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone.
-Personification- “The soul beheld its features in the mirror of the passing moment” page 173
-Rhetorical question- “Is there not law for it?” page 45
-Metaphor- “poor little Pearl was a demon offspring” page 88
-Oxymoron- “die daily a living death” page 153
-Anaphora- “Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, in the eyes of men and women-in the eyes of him whom thou didst call thy husband-in the eyes of yonder child!” page 65
-Simile- “The door of the jail being flung open from within there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow emerging into sunshine, the grim and gristly presence of the town-beadle, with a sword by his side, and his staff of office in his hand.”
Allusion- “Divine Maternity” refers to the Virgin Mary and is used to describe Hester Prynne
Flashback- This entire story is basically a flashback. The narrator stumbles upon a manuscript describing the events that unfolded and he reads these descriptions to us.
Situational irony- Chillingsworth is Hester’s old husband in disguise.
Symbols- Hawthorne uses many symbols in this novel including the scarlet letter (shame and identity for Hester) and Pearl (Hester’s living scarlet letter).
1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization. Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?
Direct characterization: “But Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity…” and “beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion” Direct characterization seemed to give away the tiny details that were almost irrelevant, but still important enough as to help progress the story and paint a more vivid picture of each character. They were more used as descriptions of appearances whereas indirect characterization gave insight to the personalities of each character. Some examples include Hester choosing to keep the scarlet letter on as opposed to leaving town and starting a new life, and also Chillingworth’s decision to go undercover and seek revenge on the man who had an affair with his wife.
2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character? How? Example(s)?
The diction and syntax change with the different personalities that are presented in this novel. Pearl who is younger and more contemplative asks a lot of questions but has a far less advanced vocabulary. Dimmesdale is a minister and his diction and syntax have a religious tint to them. A lot of his emotions are actually expressed through his sermons, and his guilt is prevalent in his speech and outer appearance (which we see degrade as the novel progresses).
3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic? Flat or round? Explain.
Hester Prynne is a dynamic and a round character. Because of her punishment, she is alienated and becomes a contemplative thinker. She has lots of time to speculate about moral questions and human nature. This matures her character and makes her more motherly and independent. She is a round character because of the wide array of emotions and characteristics she displays such as anger, love, compassion, caring, and hatred.
4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character? Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction.
I feel like Hester Prynne was just another character that I read because her choice to defy society is so different from what people nowadays would do. It makes her an admirable character, but hard to view as a realistic one. In today’s time, people would rather go with the flow of things than stand out.