The Scarlet Letter
Motif: Words and names for the Scarlet Letter
1. “‘But she—the naughty baggage—little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown!’” (49)
CM: Like many Puritan women in Boston, this woman illustrates the hate they all have for Hester Prynne, by declaring that Hester is unmoved by her sin.
2. “‘Ah, but,” interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, "let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.’” (49)
CM: This woman, who is holding a child, does not speak of Hester harshly, but by bringing her child, she portrays that she wants her child to envision Hester as second class, too.
3. “‘What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown, or the flesh of her forehead?" cried another female, the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self-constituted judges. “This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die.’” (49)
CM: When the narrator depicts that the “ugliest as well as the most pitiless” of these women desires for Hester to die, he argues that jealousy is a common trait for all women; he makes a connection that the ugliest woman wishes the worst for Hester, because she is jealous.
4. “When the young woman—the mother of this child—stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so much by an impulse of motherly affection, as that she might thereby conceal a certain token, which was wrought or fastened into her dress.” (50)
CM: People attempt to conceal their mistakes, so they never become embarrassed; Hester yearns to disguise her bosom, to avoid being looked down upon in disgust.
5. “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter “A.”” (50)
CM: The letter “A” that contained “elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread” that she sewed was a brand meant to damage Hester, but instead, she turned the situation around, and distinguished the “A” as a work of art.
“It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.” (50-51)
CM: This scarlet letter functioned as a beautiful design, causing the women in the colony to aspire it as it was not of typical Puritan design and fashion.
“But the point which drew all eyes and, as it were, transfigured the wearer—so that both men and women, who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time—was that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom.” (51)
CM: The “A”, like a gorgeous piece of jewelry that women fancied, caused many women to be jealous; it drew the attention of both men and women alike.
8. “It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” (51) CM: The scarlet letter was something Hester designed delicately and beautifully, and she was proud of it; this exemplifies her regal character, instead of making her shameful. 9.
“‘She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain," remarked one of her female spectators; "but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it.’” (51)
CM: These women, trying to demolish Hester’s name and reputation, speak of her mistakes; yet forget that they themselves are human, and ones who compose mistakes as well.
“‘It were well," muttered the most iron-visaged of the old dames, "if we stripped Madame Hester's rich gown off her dainty...
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