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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > Scarlet Letter Week 2: Chapters 4 to 9

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Moderator (last edited Aug 19, 2018 07:00AM) (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
Chapter 4:
Who is the physician?
Why was he called to see Hester?
What do we learn during the interview?

Chapter 5:
What strikes you about Hester's life after her release from prison?
How does she cope?

Chapter 6:
What is Pearl like?
How do Hester and Pearl live?

Chapter 7:
Why does Hester go to see the Governor?

Chapter 8:
What is the outcome of this chapter?
Are there any details that you think are important?

Chapter 9:
What are your thoughts on Dimmesdale? Chillingsworth? their relationship?


message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 720 comments I have to say that I'm finding the old-timey language of the dialogue cringeworthy. The language of the narration flows beautifully and is nuanced, but the minute a character opens his or her mouth, I want to run away. Makes the characters seem like puppets.

That said, there's something oddly modern (as in twentieth-century) about some of the characters. Chillingsworth's acknowledgment of partial responsibility for Hester's sin, Hester's defiance and independence, which sit so awkwardly with her feelings of guilt--these aspects of the book feel ahead of their time. I'd be curious to learn how nineteenth-century readers received it. Hawthorne was pretty bold to make such a woman a heroine.

In response to your question regarding chapter 9, I find their relationship altogether too convenient. In general, Hawthorne seems to be an odd combination of subtle psychologist and awkward storyteller.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
Good point about the dialogue, Abigail. The descriptive writing is vivid, but the dialogue is flat.
I am not sure what to make of Chillingworth yet, but he has gained a lot of influence over the young preacher and for an unknown he has made a name for himself in Salem.


message 4: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia Did anyone else find Pearl creepy? I realise that she's more symbol than realistic portrait of a child but even so...

"It was a look so intelligent, yet inexplicable, so perverse, sometimes so malicious... that Hester could not help questioning... whether Pearl was a human child."

"... like a thing incapable and unintelligent of human sorrow."



message 5: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
Pearl isn't like other children. She is certainly unusual, and the way Hester dresses her doesn't diminish the strangeness. She seems to be the embodiment of The Scarlet Letter, wearing the flamboyant red dresses her mother makes for her.


message 6: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 720 comments I think you've put a finger on what is troubling me about Pearl, Roman. The other characters feel human, with understandable motivations, while Pearl is more of a literary device. One is tempted to think that Hawthorne simply had little experience of children so she was less human to him, but perhaps his portrayal of her is part of a grand plan as yet unrevealed to me. I look forward to reading on and finding out!

Hawthorne is certainly scathing about Puritan hypocrisy! I feel I should reread the customs house intro in search of parallels--is he using the hypocrisy of the Puritan society to highlight the hypocrisies of his own? Or is he feeling pleasantly superior about a darker age?


message 7: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4505 comments Mod
Yes the dialogue is difficult for me too.

Pearl has other worldliness. In my copy, there was a comment in the introduction about Hawthorne adding the mystical into the story. It seems to me he’s mingled facts, fiction, and mystical elements into his story. I think pearl is the embodiment of the sins of the father (I read as parent) on the child. Yet she also seems like a forest elemental spirit or somebody said to be an old soul. We don’t yet know if the look described as intelligent is that or is it associated with the guilt felt by her mother.

Puritan New England, as you can tell from this story, was very rigid. Anything outside of those strict rules were sin or worse yet, witchcraft. You notice even the color’s chosen and the embellishment of Pearl’s dress is found to be an embodiment of her mother’s sin.

Yet I can’t help but notice that while Dimmesdale is sliding into I’ll health, Hester is thriving as best she can. One has to think the dimming of his physical being is referred to in his name. He has an easier road to walk than Hester, but she is the one who seems stronger.


message 8: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Deborah wrote: "It seems to me he’s mingled facts, fiction, and mystical elements into his story. I think pearl is the embodiment of the sins of the father (I read as parent) on the child. Yet she also seems like a forest elemental spirit or somebody said to be an old soul. ..."

Wonderful insights into Pearl's character. I also keep thinking about what it must have been like being so isolated and alienated as a child growing up, where everywhere she looked she was being mocked or condemned with her mother and because of her mother, from her very earliest childhood. There's no real psychological equivalent that I know of in literature, tho' there may be in real life, especially where the condemning community is so severely extreme. In a sense, no wonder Pearl grows up as other-worldly... she's never been treated like a human by anyone except her mother, and even her mother is superstitious of her.


message 9: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1439 comments Mod
I'm not re-reading, but am following the discussions. When I read the book in high school, I remember being rather creeped out by Pearl. Maybe I will have to re-read at some point.


message 10: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
Pearl is one of a kind. I have noticed in this reading that we don't learn that much about Hester's state of mind in words, but we do learn about it from her actions.
(Isn't that what good writing is supposed to do?)


message 11: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments I am very delayed. Today I read the chapter 4 and the writing style, the doth, thee and thou confounded me a lot. I struggled a bit to understand who the physician was, at first I thought he was the baby's father, but at the end I realised rightly.


message 12: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
Hawthorne's style does take getting used to, since he does like complicated sentences. I like his descriptions of nature the best, I think.


message 13: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments I really liked the chapters 5 and 6. Hawthorne writes very well. His writing style as a narrator it's very good.


message 14: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
I am glad you are enjoying it, Rafael.


message 15: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 720 comments I like his prose too, Rafael!


message 16: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments The chapter 7 was pretty good too. I am very surprised that I can get almost everything when the language is, in a certain way, old. I am reading the Library of Congress edition. It has all his works.

I am curious to know what would come from Hester's meeting in the Governor's Hall. Pearl is very naughty, isn't? She will probably give more trouble to her mother.


message 17: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2941 comments Mod
Pearl is a very unusual child.


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