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Scarlet
Letter LTD Notes

Hester

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·        
Persian-originated name that means “myrtle
leaf,” symbolistic of love

·        
Similar to “Hestia,” the goddess of hearth. She
demonstrated her “warmth” through caring for the less fortunate and sick in her
community although her efforts were rarely reciprocated

·        
Name also sounds like “hasty,” which can be
argued to be a defining characteristic and what set things into motion – first,
by marrying Chillingworth even though she was just infatuated with him (she
claims he gave her a “the marble image of happiness” (pg. 146)) and the very existence
of Pearl was probably due to a lapse in judgment because it was apparent that
Dimmesdale didn’t want her and even Hester at times was afraid of Pearl’s
existence and uncanny insight  

·        
Hawthorne compares Hester to Ann Hutchinson (the
rose bush), who also refused the spiritual authority of Puritan leaders –
although Hester accepts the punishment that they decided, she does so in a way
that she decided – she makes colorful clothes for Pearl despite the typical
dress code, her own scarlet letter is elaborately embroidered (which she
displays at all times), also refused to name father of her child

o  
rather than being repressed by Puritan laws, she
seems to have accepted it while also doing things her own way

o  
The letter “A” was “It was so artistically
done… that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration… which was…
greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.”
(pg. 46)

·        
Throughout her bearing of the scarlet letter,
Hester displays “unwomanly” traits, distinctly opposite to Dimmesdale’s “femininity”
 – Love, Passion, and Affection have
abandoned her, and although she can return back to womanhood, the “magic touch”
doesn’t happen until the end of the novel

o  
She possesses the freedom of thought and
speculation, refuses to adhere to community laws (find examples), is relied on
by Dimmesdale for strength and to make decisions

Dimmesdale

·        
Can be seen as “feminine” because of his frail
nature, weak-mindedness, and emotion-evoking speeches/effective  persuasion

o  
Not only does he have the “weakness” associated
with women, his physical characteristics are distinctly feminine

§ 
Soft, melodic voice; big, brown eyes

·        
Religion and Puritan community is the cornerstone
of existence

o  
Reluctant to reveal that he is Hester’s partner
out of fear of damaging his reputation as a reverend

o  
Unable to let go of his sin due to his conviction
in religion – quote – instead of leaving with Hester, in the end, he chose to
confess to sin

·        
He was a selfish character until the very end –
he refused to claim responsibility as Hester’s father at the beginning to preserve
his reputation and only confessed his sin right before his death to alleviate
the burden to the “sin” before he passed, and didn’t stay to experience the
consequences of his actions

·        
Interesting: even after his confession, some
people still refused to believe the evidence presented before their eyes and
insist that he’s innocent – is it because they were acquaints/friends? Because they
can’t possibly imagine someone so holy committing a sign? Or is it just another
hypocrisy in the Puritan community because of Dimmesdale identity as a male?

The Scarlet “A”

·        
Changes from meaning “adultery” to “able”

·        
In the scene where she is summoned by the
governor, the “A” was described as being reflected “in exaggerated and gigantic
proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance.
In truth, she seemed absolutely hidden by it.”

o  
To the Puritans, the letter “A” was the sole
identifying characteristic of Hester

o  
Even after the meaning of the “A” changes, the
people in the community never fail to notice it and keep it in their minds – no
matter who she becomes or what she does, the letter “A” is closely tied with
Hester’s identity

Chillingworth

·        
His occupation as a leech was ironic yet
suitable – even though he was a doctor, his presence by Dimmesdale had a
negative effect on the latter because Chillingworth wanted to exact revenge on
him

o  
Similar to an actual leech which sucks the blood
out of its host, Chillingworth sucks the life out of Dimmesdale and perished
when he died because there was no longer a “host” on which he can depend on

o  
Even though a leech is a parasite, it can also
be used in medical practices to cure patients, which translates to an almost
perfect description of Chillingworth’s interactions with Dimmesdale – although he
has the power to save Dimmesdale, he chose to instead use his abilities to
weaken and prolong Dimmesdale’s suffering

 

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