Tag Archives: The Scarlet Letter

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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If Dimmesdale were my Pastor . . .

I would be greatly dismayed.

Not just for the reason you might imagine, though.  Here’s a snippet from Chapter XVII where Dimmesdale talks about his position as a Shepherd of Souls,

And as for the people’s reverence, would that it were turned to scorn and hatred!  Canst thou deem it, Hester, a consolation, that I must stand up in my pulpit, and meet so many eyes turned upward to my face, as if the light of heaven were beaming from it! – must see my flock hungry for the truth, and listening to my words as if a tongue of Penetecost were speaking! – and then look inward, and discern the black reality of what they idolize?  I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!  And Satan laughs at it!

Do you know what my Pastors say every week?

I, a poor miserable sinner . . .

Quite a difference from the picture of sanctification that Dimmesdale has become for his parishoners.

I know that, like me, my Pastors have violated God’s law.  They admit it at the rail, preach it from the pulpit, and serve earthly consequences on a daily basis.  But, it doesn’t end there.  They also trust in God’s forgiveness received at the rail, heard from the pulpit, and delivered daily in the remembrance of their baptisms.  It is this same forgiveness in which my own bitter and agonized heart rests.

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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Whatcha say, A?

contumaciously – adv. in a rebellious manner

Classical Usage:  Remember in Chapter V when Hester’s A talks to her?  Okay, so it doesn’t actually speak, but in throbs, “What evil thing is at hand?” when she passes old ministers and magistrates, and “Behold, Hester, here is a companion!” when a young maiden steals a blushing glance.  But it acts rebelliously when she is near the ancient, cold-hearted women of town.  “Again, a mystic sisterhood would contumaciously assert itself, as she met the sanctified from of some matron, who according to the rumor of all tongues, had kept cold snow within her bosom, and the burning shame on Hester Prynne’s, – what had the two in common?”  I sort of wish it would have been a little more articulate here.  Don’t mumble, A – answer the question!

Classically Mad Usage:  We’re all firstborns.  You won’t find us acting contumaciously and skipping books, substituting titles, or reading the WEM list out of order.


Posted by on March 13, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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The Return of the Stupid Question

Lately I’ve been showing my ignorance through vocabulary words, but today I bring you another in the series of things I just don’t get, but probably should.

If my endnote is correct, Election Day was the 50th day of Easter which would fall on a Sunday every single year, and yet the townspeople were thrilled to be off work and school for the holiday.  Did they work on Sundays, or is this just a little “oopsie” on Hawthorne’s part?


Posted by on March 12, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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A is for . . .

Christine read a beautiful alphabet book to my children the other morning.  They were shown a portion of a picture and had to guess what animal would appear on the following page beginning with the letter shown.

The picture on the right is a link.  “Look Inside” if you like.

The Scarlet Letter is like an alphabet book where Hester wears the first page on her chest, and as we turn the pages of our novel, the creature depicted by the A is ever shifting.  Let’s flip through a few pages.

As we begin, Hester is holding a newborn Pearl on the pillary and we know that . . .

A is for Adultery.

Hester becomes the town’s aid, help, sympathizer and womanly strength.  They began to say that . . .

A is for Able.

As Rev. Dimmesdale serves his own penance on the pillary he is passed by Rev. Wilson, joined by Hester and Pearl, and seen by Chillingworth, all on their way home from the deathbed of Governor Winthrop.  A large zenith appears overhead, and those unaware of the family assembled under the cloak of darkness assume that it means that in his death, Gov. Winthrop has changed into a heavenly being, and that . . .

A is for Angel.

Hester reunites with her lover in the woods, her dedication to him remains after all these years.  For her . . .

A is for Arthur.

Hawthorne’s overt references to the 17th century Boston theoloian could mean that . . .

A is for Ann Hutchinson.

Ann was the proponent of a belief that the Puritans were putting too much emphasis on works and therefore denying salvation by grace alone.  She, and her followers held that believers were saved by the Holy Spirit’s power alone, regardless of works.  This historical movement could mean that . . .

A is for Antinomian Controversy.

And sadly, although Hester freely repented of her sin, I don’t remember her ever mentioning reliance in her Savior’s forgiveness.  Instead, she and Arthur both make reference to standing hand in hand before their Heavenly Father on Judgment Day with little hope.  In the woods Hester even takes that job away from her Creator when she says to Dimmesdale, “Let God punish!  Thou shalt forgive!”  Oh Hester, let God forgive.  Please let the . . .

A be for Absolved.

What other things does A mean or what do you wish it could mean?


Posted by on March 11, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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