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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > Scarlet Letter Week 3 - Chapters 10 to 17

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
In this section we learn more about the characters of Hester, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. We also get a closer look at their various relationships.
Please comment on anything that strikes you regarding the above.

The letter "A" is referred to at various times and in various ways.
What are some of its meanings.

Pearl mentions "The Black Man" in her conversations with others. To whom is she referring?

Who has changed the most in the seven years since Hester first wore the Scarlet Letter?


message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments Well, the action is certainly heating up, though Hawthorne still can't resist following one line of action with two pages of description.

I liked the way the A is changing in the minds of the community, how Hester's consistent practice of Grace turns it from an anathema to a badge of courage (while they still refer to its original meaning of "adulterer," and those with a bigger stake in maintaining the society's structures are slower to relent). It doesn't seem to have changed its meaning for Hester, though.

The Black Man is the devil, but he shows signs of becoming embodied in Roger Chillingworth.

I keep wondering about how this book was received when it was first published. Hawthorne (like Hester) seems to enjoy entertaining free-thinking ideas. I was particularly struck by the following passage from chapter 13, which could equally be said about women today: "As a first step, the whole system of society is to be torn down, and built up anew. Then, the very nature of the opposite sex, or its long hereditary habit, which has become like nature, is to be essentially modified, before woman can be allowed to assume what seems a fair and suitable position." (And then he undercuts his feminism by saying that if women did so, they would destroy their basic nature--back to the kitchen for you, girl!)

One other observation: lots of the pathetic fallacy--the natural world obligingly contorting itself to reflect the inward state of people, and so on. The description of the wood where Hester and Dimmesdale meet a particular example.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I noticed that Pearl has mixed feelings for Dimmesdale. She seems to know his secret instinctively, and is also aware of the true nature of Chillingworth.
I am not sure how she feels about her mother.


message 4: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments She's almost a believable child when she zeroes in on what the grownups most don't want to talk about! But at the end of this week's reading, I'm left (view spoiler)


message 5: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
I’m behind but am reading. On thing I wanted to note is the description in chapter 12 about the witches that fly by night. It is Salem, after all. Actually, Salem is still known today for paranormal activity and come Halloween many people descend upon the town. There is also a lady there who is considered the resident town witch.


message 6: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments Them and the governor's cranky sister, soliciting Hester to join them in the woods! Such an odd notion of witchly behavior--we never proselytize. ;-)


message 7: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
That sister is something else!


message 8: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
I’ve finally caught up. What strikes me is how Hester and Dimmesdale are complete opposites. She’s gone through public shame, humiliation, jailed, shunned, etc. Yet, she’s made a life of service to those around her and seems at peace. She shows strength of character and physical strength.

He had none of the challenges yet completely lacks strength in any form and has no peace. I know it’s hawthorne showing him being eaten up by his conscience, but it still strikes me how strong her made Hester. After all, it would have been more typical and probably more acceptable to make her the temptress, the evil one.


message 9: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I agree, Deborah. I was impressed at how Hester endured and eventually gained respect from some of the townspeople. Dimmesdale was being eaten up by his sense of guilt and suffered intensely.


message 10: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia Deborah wrote: "He had none of the challenges yet completely lacks strength in any form"

And Hawthorne draws attention to this point by naming him 'Dimmesdale': weak, the light of morality being dimmed etc.

Also Chillingsworth, who becomes progressively colder as the story progresses.

If Hester is defined by the scarlet A, then so are the men by their names.


message 11: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Deborah wrote: "He had none of the challenges yet completely lacks strength in any form"

And Hawthorne draws attention to this point by naming him 'Dimmesdale': weak, the light of morality being d..."


Yes I noticed the names too


message 12: by Rafael (last edited Sep 10, 2018 11:58AM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments This is not a spoiler, just a speculation. Is Mr. Dimmesdale Pearl's father? Every sentence where he calls himself a sinner make me see it as a "proof" of my reading.


message 14: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
That is so, Rafael. I have read the book more than once, so I noticed just how much Dimmesdale was suffering. He suffered much more than Hester, who had to wear the scarlet letter.


message 15: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Chapter 12

It is a printing failure? In my edition there's a couple of lines where the language is "wrong". It should be contemporary to the characters but it is contemporary to the author.

"A good evening to you, venerable Father Wilson. Come up hither, I pray you, and pass a pleasant hour with me!"

"Pearl! Little Pearl!" cried he, after a moment's pause; then, suppressing his voice--"Hester! Hester Prynne! Are you there?"

"Whence come you, Hester?" asked the minister. "What sent you hither?"

"Come up hither, Hester, thou and Little Pearl," said the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. "Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together."


You? I'm not intending to be a scholar on the subject criticising the author use of his mother language, being myself a foreigner to the language. I am just confused.

If it is right I probably did not understand the usage of thou, thee and you.


message 16: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Mr. Dimmesdale sister. I guess I inderstand wrong. She was not executed? Since this fact was told (I don't remember in which chapter it is told) she appeared 2 times until now (chapter 12).


message 17: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Rafael, thou is like "tu" in French, the familar way to talk to someone close.
"You" was used in a more formal setting or with people you didn't know.


message 18: by Rafael (last edited Sep 10, 2018 12:18PM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments I dont mind spoilers, but some people does, so, thank you, Abigail and Rosemarie. Your responses didn't spoil the book for me.


message 19: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Rafael, thou is like "tu" in French, the familar way to talk to someone close.
"You" was used in a more formal setting or with people you didn't know."


Oh, thank you. I will try to stick this info in my mind. So, historically, the "you" survived and this distinction disappeared? Interesting.


message 20: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments Interesting examples, Rafael, sharp of you to observe! I had not noticed that Dimmesdale addressed Hester with such formality in that scene.

The usages of "you" and "thee/thou" in the seventeenth and even eighteenth centuries were fraught with drama. The Quaker sect was persecuted (mostly in England but also in the colonies) partly because they treated all people as equals and therefore addressed everyone using thee and thou. It was considered seditious, a threat to the social order. Nowadays it is regarded only as quaint!


message 21: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
The woman you mentioned is the sister of the governor, named Mistress Hibbins. Hawthorne is telling a story set in his past, so he gives us glimpses of what happens to some of the characters after the period of the story.


message 22: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
The fact that English has only one word for "you" can make language learning a bit confusing for them. The plural of thou is "ye".


message 23: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 715 comments It largely disappeared, Rafael, but in my lifetime I have known a few Quakers who still use thee and thou. It's certainly not a part of mainstream English anymore.


message 24: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Abigail wrote: "Interesting examples, Rafael, sharp of you to observe! I had not noticed that Dimmesdale addressed Hester with such formality in that scene.

The usages of "you" and "thee/thou" in the seventeenth ..."


Thank you, Abigail. I learned a bit about the Quakers, but I did not know that their usage of thee/thou was because of that distinction. I read that today in some places this usage still remains so I thought that they just preserve it. I was totally wrong.


message 25: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Rosemarie wrote: "The woman you mentioned is the sister of the governor, named Mistress Hibbins. Hawthorne is telling a story set in his past, so he gives us glimpses of what happens to some of the characters after ..."

Really? I confused the characters.


message 26: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments I am very delayed. Today I finished this section.

It was a big cliffhanger. I am curious to know what they two will do.


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