Tag Archives: The Scarlet Letter

Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter

Why am I only on chapter 3 of Crime and Punishment?

I blame this book:

Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter
A Novel by Paula Reed

Last week when I should have been reading Dostoyevsky (That’s the spelling I’ve decided to use.  If it’s good enough for SWB, it’s good enough for me), I was speeding through this book.

Here’s a paragraph from the book’s flyleaf:

Upon the death of her demonic husband, Hester Prynne is left a widow, and her daughter Pearl, a wealthy heiress.  Hester takes her daughter to live a quiet life in England, only to find herself drawn into the circle of the most powerful Puritan of all time, Oliver Cromwell.

In this story, Hester’s “A” has given her the ability to see sin and hypocrisy in others.  I enjoyed how the author took Hawthorne’s characters and tucked them into the history of England.  Having read The Scarlet Letter, I knew things about Hester’s past that other characters did not.

Admit it.  You’ve wondered what happened to Hester and Pearl during those years in England.  What brought Hester Prynne back to Puritan New England?  What about those letters she receives with the royal crest?  Author Paula Reed answers all those questions.

Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter… it’s what’s on my nightstand.

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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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Flashbacks of Revenge

Sometimes I am reading our current novel and have a flashback to a previous book.  Like when I read this quote from chapter 44 of Moby-Dick:

What trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire.  He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.

Obviously, Ahab is the character described in the quote, but in the margin of my copy I wrote, “sounds like Roger Chillingworth.”

I love it when a character comes back to visit, even a creepy one like Hester’s husband.

Sperm Whaling. The Chase

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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter


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The Scarlet Letter and the Funny Pages?

Did anyone else read the newspaper comics last week?  It’s been a little while since I’ve finished The Scarlet Letter, but I’m still thinking about it.

And it looks like I’m not the only one.  Take a look at this… and this.

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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A Themed Wrap-up

You’ve all been extremely polite and quietly waited for me to post The Scarlet Letter wrap-up despite the fact that we set sail on Moby-Dick some time ago.  Today’s the day, so don your favorite monogram and let’s put this book to rest – at least for a little while.


We began our day with a trip to a local gallery that was featuring original illustrations from novels by Charles Dickens.  The showing was part of the large 200th birthday celebration for Dickens that began in February.  We, of course, read Oliver Twist in 2011.

The engravings from Oliver Twist were mostly by the artist James Mahoney and were new to us since our editions all contained the Cruikshank works.  The display did contain his famous Sikes on the roof sketch.

My personal favorite of the collection was this:

The Bumble/Corney corny, bumbled romance was the highlight of the book for me.

Then there was this illustration:

It was titled:

And we still don’t know.  Do you?  The Artful Dodger?  A healthy, confident Oliver?  Oh well, next up, we enlisted the


The Salvation kind, of course.  We took a little side-trip to do a bit of shopping.  It had nothing to do with classic literature.  I’m sorry I even brought it up.  On with our day:


We had to sate them, so Panera Bread was our next stop. And after analyzing the Thai dressing, and yumminess of edamame we finally got to discussing The Scarlet Letter.


We did our best with Susan Wise Bauer’s WEM questions, Christine even had hers typed out.  We started first with our own titles for the book, then we moved on to the trickier question of what each character wanted.  My mind is completely stuck in a rut on this particular text and so my answer to every question was:


I know there is more to the book than that, and that my fellow readers had better answers, but I made the huge mistake of not writing them down, so now I seek the above for my self-centered forgetfulness.

stute Observation

The highlight of the dicussion was this beautiful literary structure that Jeannette pointed out.  Let me see if I can do it justice with a little diagram:And just look at what happens when you flip that on it’s end:

Clever, eh?  Or should I say,

Clever, ?


Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Letter


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Renaming The Scarlet Letter

By now you know that the WEM First Level of Inquiry Questions require me to retitle the novel.  I’ve talked about the task here and here.  These are the two questions that will help me with that assignment.

1. Who is the central character in this book?
2. What is the book’s most important event?

Let’s tackle the second question.  Can we agree that the adultery was the most important event in the book?  Or at least Chillingworth witnessing Hester’s ignominy on the pillory?  The entire book centers on the adultery, so that’s the answer I’m using.

Now for first question.  Instinctively I want to say that Hester Prynne is the central character, but part of me wants to say that Rev. Dimmesdale comes in a close second.  I don’t want to leave anyone out, so can I include Roger Chillingworth as well?  Let’s face it.  Other than a few governors and the occasional townsperson (Mistress Hibbons), who was on your character list?  These three.  Oh, and Pearl.  We can’t forget the living representation of the scarlet letter.

Back to the retitling…
The WEM says, “Now give your book a title that mentions the main character, and a subtitle that tells how that character is affected by the book’s main event.”

So readers, here’s your assignment.  Give The Scarlet Letter a new title using one of the three main characters’ names and a subtitle explaining how that character was affected by the main event of the novel.

Here’s my attempt at using Chillingworth.

Roger Chillingworth: a husband returns to find his wife publicly shunned for having another man’s child, so he dedicates his life to seeking revenge upon his wife’s lover by concealing his identity and befriending the man in order to torture him psychologically at the cost of the husband’s own spiritual and physical destruction.

Your turn.


Posted by on March 20, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter, Well-Educated Mind


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Another reason to read Moby-Dick

Did you admire Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing of The Scarlet Letter?  It appears that Herman Melville did as well.  Here is what is inscribed on the dedication page of Moby-Dick.

In Token
Of My Admiration For His Genius
This Book Is Inscribed
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Very Interesting.

Have you located your copy of Moby-Dick?  You will not want to miss this classic!


Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter


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Feeling Conflicted

This is my copy of The Scarlet Letter.

This is the magnetic bookmark that I’ve been using for The Scarlet Letter.

Can you see why I have felt conflicted?

So much so that sometimes I had to use the bookmark like this:

Just giving proof of my madness.

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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Answers, Anyone?

I wottest not a chirurgical solution to my ignorance, nor will an emolument to a mountebank give me understanding, yet I countumaciously continue to ask Stupid Questions in hopes of understanding the cabalistic phrases used by Hawthorne.

Please comment with your own sentence incorporating our words for the week:

*may be used as a “free play”


Posted by on March 17, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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Choose Your Own Romance Novel

As much as I detested the awful Demi Moore movie named The Scarlet Letter, (notice I didn’t say it was The Scarlet Letter) it did give me something to think about:

How did the relationship between Hester and Arthur develop?

I certainly think the clumsy, lusty way that the movie depicted it with it’s built in “Roger is dead, so it’s okay” excuse was not the way it worked.  But what did happen between the two Puritans to lead them down this treacherous path?

What little we can guess about a prequel must be based in what we already know:

  • Hester would not give up Arthur’s identity.  She protected him with a fierce tenacity that seems to speak of a dedication and love for him that overrides any selfish desire for revenge.
  • Neither party attempted a rekindling of their romance during the seven years from the beginning of the novel to their ultimate meeting.  This could be for several reasons, obviously, as stated before Hester didn’t want to compromise Aurthur.  Fear on both parts also could have been the motivating factor.  Or, shame towards each other could have kept them apart.
  • When they finally meet after seven years in the woods, their reconnection grows modestly, and through words, not actions.
  • Hester never loved Roger.  She reminds him of this when he visits her in the jail cell, and he does not hold that against her, but admits that he “betrayed her budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay.”

Here’s my, admittedly over-romantic, guess:  Hester and Arthur developed a relationship first out of her respect for him and his willingness to assist her in her need (because I don’t know about you, but if your old, ugly, husband that you didn’t love sent you to live in a foreign land and didn’t come along, you might be happy to receive a hand from a friend every once in a while.)  I think it grew to mutual admiration and love.  Yes, love.

More importantly, here’s why I don’t think it was some overly-passionate, lust-filled tromp in the woods:  If that had been the case there would be no reason for Hester to remain quiet about his identity.  Rash actions lead to mare rash actions, and her deliberate silence was certainly well-pondered.  Also, neither character, despite how they changed throughout the novel, ever seemed the type to act on impulse, but instead showed a quiet, methodical, careful, and steadfast manner in their decisions.

Not that I condone their decision.  No, no, no.  Neither love, nor lust can defend them against the wrong they chose.  But this novel has left me thinking more about the “what happened before page 1” than most novels leave me with “what happened after p. 264.”

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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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Hester’s Pearl

Oh, Pearl.  I’m not sure what to think of your part in The Scarlet Letter.  You’re described as both an elf child and demon child.  Sometimes we think those descriptions fit.  Young Pearl that you are, you act as an irritant upon your mother Hester, teasing and tormenting her with your obsession of her scarlet A.  You do know that an oyster’s pearl is formed around an irritant, don’t you?  You are your mama’s only companion.  At one point in the story she even thinks about revealing to you the reason she wears the A.  She is that desperate to have a confidant.  You are her treasure that was bought at a great price.  You are the “living hieroglyphic” of your parents’ adultery and as such, you are merely a symbol of your parents’ sin.  Until…

::Spoiler Alert::

Pearl, you only become human when your father publicly recognizes you as his child, and you kiss him in some sort of reverse Sleeping Beauty scene where he dies and you awaken as a real child.

What does the future hold for a child who starts off life in this way?

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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