nathaniel hawthorne – the scarlat letter


The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a novel set in Massachusetts , a very religious settlement in the North of America
The story is about a young woman, Hester Prynne from Boston, who is condemned publicly for having committed adultery. She must stay on the scaffold ( = patibolo) for an hour with her child, Pearl, in her arms and wear a scarlet letter on her gown at all times. She has embroidered (= ricamato) a beautiful “A” on her corset. In the crowd in front of the scaffold she her husband – thought dead for years (= ritenuto morto) – Roger Chillingworth.
The years pass. Hester and Pearl live outside the town. She gets her living (=si guadagna da vivere) embroidering and sewing (= ricamando e cucendo) clothing for the townspeople and often spends her time helping the poor and sick (= I poveri e gli ammalati). Pearl grows up very lively. Roger Chillingworth – who makes people think he is a physician (= chimico) – goes to live in the same home as Arthur Dimmesdale, an ill minister (= prete). Where Chillingworth discovers that Dimmesdale is the true father of Pearl, he starts tormenting Dimmesdale whose health worsen. (= la cui salute peggiora). Hester understands and confronts (= affronta) Chillinggworth. He tells her he knows the truth and that wants to make the priest’s life an hell. (= vuole rendere un inferno al vita del prete)
Hester tells Dimmesdale Chillingworth’s true identity and together they decide to leave on board of a ship, but unfortunately Chillingworth disveres their plans. On the morning of their departure, after the Election Sermon, Dimmesdale calls Hester and Pearl to come with him on the scaffold. Chillingworth tries to stop him, but Dimmesdale laughs and tells him that he cannot win.
Hester and Pearl join Dimmesdale on the scaffold. Dimmesdale revel the people the truth and open his shirt: there is a scarlet letter on his flesh. Then he falls to his knees and dies. Chillingworth dies shortly thereafter.
Hester and Pearl go to Europe for many years,. When Hester returns she is without her daughter. Probably Pearl has married a man in Europe. Hester continues to receive letters from a man of great means (= un uomo ricco) for the rest of her life. She lives a long life, helping many troubled women. When she dies, Hester is buried (= è sepolta) next to Dimmesdale’s grave. On the tombstone (= pietra tombale) there are the words: “On a Field , Sable (= nero) , the Letter A, Gules (= rossa).” (sullo sfondo, nero, la lettera A, rossa)

Commentary
the main themes that Hawthorner are sin and knowledge, linked in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Like Adam and Eve, Hester and Dimmesdale are sent away from Heaven and forced to learn to live on Earth. But the worldly knowledge is seen as an obstacle on the path to heaven by the Puritan elders. This concept shows how the Puritan society is stagnant, while Hester and Dimmesdale’s experience leads them to personal growth, sympathy, and understanding of others. The evil is often defined as the “Black Man,” who is associated with Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Mistress Hibbins, and little Pearl is thought by some to be the Devil’s child. The characters also try understand the causes of evil and show the problems with the Puritan conception of sin. It probably comes out from the close relationship between hate and love.

Identity and Society: Hester could go away from Boston and so remove the scarlat letter. Surprisingly she remains because she does not want to acknowledge the society’s power over her whereas Hester very determinedly integrates her sin into her life.
On the contrary, Dimmesdale never fully recognizes the truth of what Hester has learned: that individuality and strength are gained by quiet self-assertion and by a reconfiguration, not a rejection, of one’s assigned identity.

Civilization/ Wilderness – The setting represent opposing behavioural systems. The town represents civilization with its rules, the forest, is a space of natural rather than human authority as there society’s rules do not apply, and alternate identities can be assumed. Hester’s cottage is located on the outskirts of town and at the edge of the forest and so it embodies both orders, it is a place where she can create for herself a life of relative peace.

Night/Day – Sunlight and darkness, represent the actions socially acceptable, and those which must take place covertly. During the day people show their action and are vulnerable to punishment; at night they can performe activities that would not be possible or tolerated during the day
Night is the time when inner natures can manifest themselves. During the day, interiority is once again hidden from public view, and secrets remain secrets.

Evocative Names – The names can assume allegorical meanings . Chillingworth is cold and inhuman and thus brings a “chill” to Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s lives. “Prynne” rhymes with “sin,” while “Dimmesdale” suggests “dimness”—weakness, indeterminacy, lack of insight, and lack of will, all of which characterize the young minister. The name “Pearl” evokes a biblical allegorical device—the “pearl of great price” that is salvation. This way of giving names a deeper meaning reminds the Bible and the fairy tales.

The scarlet letter – It is a symbol of shame, but then becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester : from the “A”as adulter it comes to stand for “Able.”

The Meteor – The incident with the meteor obviously highlights and exemplifies two different uses of symbols: Puritan and literary.

Pearl – The girl is the living version of her mother’s scarlet letter: she represents the “sin” but also the vital spirit and passion that engendered that sin.

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