The Scarlet Letter – Notes The Scarlet Letter – Notes Author’s Background: Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4th, 1804. Hawthorne lived poor due to his father’s death when he was four, but he was helped by relatives and enrolled in college where he displayed an interest in writing. In college, he met a friend who would prove to be an invaluable help Franklin Pierce, future President of the United States. In 1825 he graduated and lived with his uncle in Salem for 12 years, devoting his time to reading, writing, and scrapping for publication. He spewed out several stories, but few sold for over $35 each. In 1837 Hawthorne took a job in the Custom-House in Boston.
He grew bored with this work and the people around him, however, up to the point where he wrote The Custom House as an introduction to The Scarlet Letter. In this introduction he showed the dull life of working in a custom house. From the Custom-House, he left for Brooke Farm. During his time at Brooke Farm, he met such thinkers as Emmerson and Thoreau. He also met and courted Sophia Peabody, and left Brooke Farm with her in 1842 to stay at “Old Manse”, the Emmerson homestead.
When Emmerson returned to Old Manse, Hawthorne left and went to Salem to live with Sophia. From this point, Hawthorne won a job at the Salem Custom-House due to a political appointment from his college friend Franklin Pierce. However, when the political winds changed to Zachary Taylor, he lost his job and devoted himself to writing at his wife’s insistence. The result was The Scarlet Letter, which was the beginning of a successful series of books including The House of Seven Gables in 1851, The Blithedale Romance in 1852, and Tanglewood Tales for Boys and Girls in 1853. With this success and the aid of President Franklin Pierce, he was appointed as US consul to Liverpool, England.
This was a reward for writing Pierce’s biography. Hawthorne’s final years are sketchy. On a voyage back to Plymouth, New Hampshire, he became deathly ill and died on May 19, 1864. He was buried on Concord, Massachusetts. Literary Period and Setting Literary Period: Romanticism and Transcendentalism Setting: Boston, Massachusetts. USA 1842-1849 Characters Hester Prynne A) Hester was a beautiful young woman who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She is proud and strong, but commits the sin of adultery with Reverend Dimmesdale while her husband is supposedly in England finishing up some work.
Pearl is the product of this sin and Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life to show her sin. Isolated from the community, Hester is forced to rise a step higher than average for respect in the Puritan community. B) Hester is motivated by her loves for Pearl and Dimmesdale and by her belief in the Puritan values. C) In the end, Hester’s letter begins to mean “able” to the townspeople in place of “adulteress”. After her husband’s death, she takes Pearl away from Boston, but returns to live out her life with the letter according to Puritan code. Reverend Dimmesdale A) The young minister of Boston.
He commits adultery with the young Hester Prynne. He is forced to go through life with the secret knowledge of the crime he has committed and convinces himself that this is the only way. He tells himself that people look up to him for moral and spiritual support and he must be perfect in their eyes. However, at home, he fasts and scourges himself to make penitence for his sin. B) His guilt, as well as his belief in Puritan values and his inner turmoil are his motivating factors. C) Dimmesdale finally reveals himself on the scaffold to Boston as the sinner who had committed adultery with Hester Prynne.
He then promptly dies, freed from his inner burden. Pearl A) Pearl was the child brought about by Hester and Dimmesdale’s sin. She was brought up by her mother, but never fully adapted to Puritan ways. Because of her energy and her origins, Pearl was not accepted by other children. Pearl was a rebellious child throughout her life, serving constantly as a reminder to her mother of the sin she and Dimmesdale shared. B) Pearl was motivated by her energy, free spirit, and love of nature.
C) Pearl ends up inheriting a large amount of land from the will of Roger Chillingworth and is one of the richest heiresses in America. Her mother takes her to England and Pearl is never seen again in the colonies. Roger Chillingworth A) Chillingworth was Hester’s husband who was away in England. Due to shipwreck and Indian confinement, he enters the colony long after his wife left him, and discovers she has a baby. Chillingworth attaches himself as a friend to ReverendDimmesdale, using the false guise of friendship to ruin the Reverend’s life. He iseventually entirely engulfed by his quest for revenge and has no other meaning inlife.
B) Chillingworth is motivated by his deep hatred of Dimmesdale and his entire life is devoted to revenge against the man who committed adultery with his wife. C) After Dimmesdale reveals his secret and dies on the scaffold, Chillingworth loses all meaning in life. Within a year of Dimmesdale’s death, he died, leaving Pearl his estate. Governor Bellingham A) Bellingham was the allegorical character who represented the governmental facet of Boston. He sheltered his sister, Mistress Hibbins, from accusations of witchcraft with his office.
He was one of the main voices in attempting to remove Pearl from her mother’s care, but was talked out of the idea by Dimmesdale. B) Bellingham was motivated by his desire to help the Puritan community. C) The last that was seen of Bellingham, he gave Pearl the land from Chillingworth in accordance with the will. Mistress Hibbins A) Mistress Hibbins represented the supernatural element of the novel. She is Bellingham’s sister …