American Lit Podcast #6 Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (4 of 4)

Hawthorne takes a moment to explain that the Puritans in New England weren’t all drab and bitter; most were native Englishmen, who back in the old country were merry and joyful, and today’s holiday brings back the merriment they must have remembered, even though we don’t see it otherwise.    

“Their immediate posterity,” Hawthorne tells us, “the generation next to the early emigrants, wore the blackest shade of Puritanism, and so darkened the national visage with it, that all the subsequent years have not sufficed to clear it up. We have yet to learn again the forgotten art of gaiety.”     

I think the story would be one thing, if Dimmesdale learned that the sea escape was scuttled, and then did the next best thing and confessed himself to death before the whole town.  But the procession is going on just when Hester learns from the sea captain that Chilligworth is coming on the ship, too. At this dramatic moment, Hawthorne halts the story to describe the procession – this parade of soldiers, musicians, officials, and of course the ministers, and the tension emphasizes Hester’s inability to act.

Prediscussion Podcast 6.mp3

One thought on “American Lit Podcast #6 Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (4 of 4)

  1. I studied Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter‘ last term and was fascinated by this story of community and passion and religion. Set in the Puritan Age, the book is basically about adultery and the consequences thereafter. It sheds light on community living and the importance of adhering to the rules set by it. It is also a powerful story of one woman’s determination and perseverance. Hester Prynne has since then become an icon of womanpower. Given the same situation, today’s woman may react somewhat differently. She may not be that stoic, nor will she take all the blame herself. Ah, but we forget. Love is involved here. And Hester Prynne is patient and stoic because she doesn’t want her lover, Arthur Dimmsedale, harmed in any way. But in the end, her patience pays off and Arthur confesses his guilt by showing the `A’ carved on his own chest, to all the community people. A good read, actually. And if you need any help with it, like I did, just go to Shmoop—it’s answered all my questions! :)

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