EN 209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 22: Twin Unit, Avail, Word Play

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The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Class Discussion 1
Background:
The novel was considered scandalous in the time period. It was also responsible to
starting the tradition of ordering books through the mail (people didn’t want others
to know that they were reading it). Best-seller culture started here too.
Custom House was added to make the manuscript long enough to be a novel.
Hawthorne embraced heavy symbolism… this is his idea of “romance”
Stories that combine reality/history and elements of supernaturalism
Ex. Pearl- Roger Chillingworth’s real surname is Prynne; He is still
married to Hester and Chillingworth is just a cover name.
Why write the Scarlet Letter? He was inspired by “Wide, Wide World” with the
female protagonist experiencing heavy tragedy. He saw how popular the theme was
in selling to female audiences and wanted to improve it for his own gains.
Main Characters of Scarlet Letter:
Chillingworth---Hester---Dimmesdale
\ /
Pearl
Other storylines:
- Chillingworth- getting consumed in search for revenge
- Dimmesdale- some type of tragic hero
- Pearl- “elfen” child, “witch” child
- “The spell was broken” (when she kisses Dimmesdale at the end)
- But Pearl ends up living an okay, normal life; gets a happy ending
Name Symbolism:
Pearl
Hester calls her daughter this; “thou art my most valuable possession”
Chillingworth
“Chillingworth” is a 19th century term for “cuckold” (old fashioned term for
a husband whose wife went and cheated on him); implies that the husband is
not taking care of business at home and that’s why the wife left. Hawthorne
put this in book as a funny element (i.e. guy walks into prison and
announces himself as Roger the Cuckold)
Dimmesdale
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