The Scarlet Letter

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AP Comp and Literature
Ben Drexler
The Scarlet Letter chapters 1-5

AP style questions
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter has many allusions in the first five chapters. Some of them are listed below:

Utopia - allusion to a perfect world described by Thomas Moore in the 16th century.

Anne Hutchinson - allusion to one of the first settlers of Massachusetts to be banished for speaking heresy

Mistress Hibbins - allusion to a woman who was accused of being a witch in Salem, Mass. Allusion to Salem witch trials

"image of Divine Maternity” - allusion to a picture of Mary and Jesus. Hester and her baby are compared to Mary and Jesus by Hawthorne

Elizabeth - allusion to Queen Elizabeth.

Daniel - biblical allusion to the prophet Daniel who was able to interpret writing on the wall. He is mentioned, because they do not have a Daniel that will be able to discover who Hester's lover is.

"But he will be known-he will be known-he will be known"- this is a reversal of Peter's denial three times. This is another biblical allusion.

Hester punished on scaffold for 3 hours - allusion to the three hours Jesus was on the cross.

Alchemy - allusion to the medieval practice of attempting to turn substances into different substances. Chillingworth is characterized as a dark and twisted man that practices alchemy.

"I know not Lethe nor Nepenthe" - Chillingworth alludes to Lethe the river of forgetfulness in Greek mythology and he alludes to Nepenthe which is an Egyptian drug used to dispel sorrow through forgetfulness.

The Black Man - Allusion to the devil or the messenger of the devil. Hester asks Chillingworth if he is the Black Man when she learns of his plot for revenge.

All of these allusions serve to help the audience understand the circumstance of the protagonist Hester. Most of these allusions help to establish who Hester is and who she will become. Many of the allusions are biblical allusions and are fairly easy for the audience to understand. The use of allusions helps to establish an eerie atmosphere in Salem, with religious idiosyncrasy. The allusion to Hester’s punishment on the scaffold for three hours helps to create her role as a hero and the protagonist. Hester’s comparison to Mary helps the audience to see that Hester is actually very kind and loving. The allusions to Mistress Hibbins and Anne Hutchinson employ the reader to decide if Hester will follow the path of them.

In this chapter Hester Prynne is released from the prison and goes to live in an abandoned cottage in the outskirts of the town. We can be sympathetic for her, because she still wants to be a member of the community even though the town shuns her adultery. We can be sympathetic for her, because Hester yearns to do the right thing and proves the community wrong by her actions. Hester has a skill for sewing and she uses this skill for her own self-worth. Her creations are worn by the Governor, military men, the minister, babies, women in the community, and by people in their death beds. Her clothing was not to be worn in weddings though, because this would be improper. Her clothing would also be worn by the poor, but even the poor were skeptical of wearing her clothing even if it was given to them for free. We can have sympathy for Hester, because even when she delivers her clothing to distinguished women in the community she is subtly and inappropriately reminded of her adultery. Another cause of sympathy is the fact that Hester is so strongly aware of her mistake and that she seldom goes without thinking about the burning sensation of the letter A that she must wear. There are many literary elements that create sympathy for Hester. “She stood apart from mortal interests, yet close between them, like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside, and can no longer make itself seen or felt…” Hester is compared to a ghost this is sad, because no human being should be completely ignored and treated like a...
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