Scarlet Letter Reading Notes

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The Scarlet Letter Reading Log
Chapter 1

Vocabulary: Invariably, sepulchres, burdock.
Questions: 1) Why is it that Nathaniel Hawthorne includes Anne Hutchinson in this chapter? 2) What could the roses symbolize in front of the prison door? 3) Why is the crowd's attention focused on the door? Predictions: There may be a hanging that day, hence why there is a "throng" of people in front of the prison. It may be a man or a woman. The rose is a symbol for courage and passion, this may be a main theme in this book. Summary: A large crowd of people are standing in front of a prison door. This door is old, as described by the "weather stains and other indications of age which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front."Also, the iron studs on the prison are rusting. Overall there is an impression of decay. Outside the prison there is a rosebush that is in full bloom. The narrator says that it is possible that "this rosebush ... had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Ann Hutchinson, as she entered the prison door." He then plucks one of the roses and offers it to the reader as a "moral blossom" for later on in the story. Comments: So far in the story, the setting has been set as a dark place, which leads me to believe there may be a sad ending. The rosebush could also symbolize a happy ending too. It seems that Hawthorne wants us to find the beauty in the darkest of situations.

The Scarlet Letter Reading Log
Chapter 2

Vocabulary: physiognomies, betokened, Antinomian, heterodox, farthingale, malefactresses, sumptuary, ignominy, preternaturally, remonstrance Questions: 1) Why has Hester embroidered such an elaborate "Scarlet Letter?" 2) What crime has Hester committed? 3) Is her lover also in the jail awaiting his/her own punishment? Predictions: Hester may be being led off to be punished and subsequently hanged. Her daughter may become a major component to the future of Hester's life. The scholar that she married may come into the story angry at her for being an adulterer, maybe even want to kill her and her lover. Summary: Several women begin to discuss Hester Prynne, and they soon vow that Hester would not have received such a light sentence for her crime if they had been the judges. One woman, the ugliest of the group, goes so far as to vouch for the death of Hester. Hester comes out from the prison with elegance in her movements. She clutches daughter, Pearl. She has sown an intricate scarlet A on her dress. Several of the women are outraged when they that she has chosen to display the letter proudly, and they want to rip it off. Hester is led through the crowd to the scaffold. Hawthorne compares her beauty while on the scaffold to an image of Madonna and Child. The ordeal is difficult for Hester. She tries to make the images in front of her vanish by thinking about her past. Hester imagines she's back in her house in England with her dad at the door. She then thinks of a slightly deformed scholar that is her husband. Hester looks out over the crowd and realizes for the first time that her life condemns her to be alone. She looks at her daughter and then fingers the scarlet letter that will be a part of her now. At the thought of what is to come, she squeezes Pearl so hard that the she cries in pain. Comments: Hester is almost hiding her shame behind a front of being proud of her mark. It is obvious that the people hate her for what she has done, and for who she is, but we do not know who is the actual "bad" guy.

The Scarlet Letter Reading Log
Chapter 3

Vocabulary: abate, peradventure, behooves, sagacity, hearken Questions: 1) Was the man with the Indian Hester's scholarly husband? 2) Who is the father of Pearl, could he possibly be part of the crowd? 3) Why won't Hester name Pearl's father? Predictions: The man with the Indian may turn out to be someone from Hester's life, and may be willing to do something in revenge for a wrong done against him. Hester doesn't seem to be...
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