puritan america: salem, n. howthorne (the scarlat letter; young goodman brown)


Puritan America

Salem processes

From June through September of 1692,hundreds of men and women were accused of witchcraft and sent to prison in Salem, Massachusetts, North America. Many remained in jail (= galera) for months without trials (= processi). Nineteen were hanged (= impiccati) at Gallows Hill, a slope(= una rupe) near Salem Village. An old man was pressed under heavy stones (= soffocato sotto pesanti massi di pietra) because he refused this trial. Then, this collective hysteria stopped… The reason of the “unjust” way of making justice was due to (= fu dovuta a ) a combination of difficult living and economic conditions in unknown territories, frontier wars, personal conflicts and jealousies. In 1688, John Putnam, influential elder (= anziano) of Salem Village, invited Samuel Parris, a farmer and merchant in the Barbados, to preach (= predicare) in the Village church. A year later, Parris accepted the job as Village minister (= prete) and moved to Salem e with his wife, his six-year-old daughter, Betty, his niece Abigail and his Indian slave, Tituba. In that period the area was changing and becoming a place for merchants, but families were fighting for the power and there was a debate about the independence of the agricultural Salem Village from the sea centred Salem During an exceptionally cold winter of 1692, young Betty Parris became strangely ill. At that time – after the publication of Cotton Mather’s book about the suspected witchcraft (= stregoneria) of an Irish washerwoman (= lavandaia) in Boston – it was easy to believe that the girl was possessed by the devil. When other Betty’s mates (=compagni) started suffering from the same symptoms was called doctor William Griggs. Unfortunately he could not cure them, and so he declared that the girls’ problems might had a supernatural origin. Besides, the slave Tituba was already suspected as she told the girls tales (= racconti) of omens (= auspici), voodoo, and witchcraft from her native folklore. On February 29, three arrest warrants (= mandati di arresto) were issued (= stipulati) against Tituba and two other women. And Tituba was so afraid that she confessed she had been approached (= avvicinata) by a tall man in Boston, probably Satan in the flesh (= in carne ed ossa). From that moment on, the witch chase (= caccia alle streghe) started with a new zeal (= zelo) and the persecution went on…..

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown (1835) by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story set in 17th century Puritan New England. One morning young Goodman Brown leaves Faith (=Fede), his wife and goes into the forest. There he finds the other people living in his town: they are all going to a clearing (=un luogo senza alberi) where a ceremony is taking place. He sees also his wife : they are brought in front of an altar as they are the only two of the townspeople not yet initiated to the forest rite. It seems a black Sabbath to celebrate the devil. Goodman Brown tries to resist and everything disappears. Back at the village the following day he does not know if he had a nightmare or if it was a real event. He loses his faith in his wife and in the whole community and starts living a solitary life …[…]”And when he had lived long, and was borne (= fu portato) to his grave (= tomba) …they carved (= scolpirono) no hopeful (= di speranza) verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom (= giudizio finale).” The story is set during the Salem witch trials. Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather John Hathorne was a judge at that time and sent many people to prison or to the scaffold (= patibolo). Hawthorne always felt guilty (=colpevole) for what his ancestor (= progenitore) had done. For this reason Nathaniel Hawthorn added (= aggiunse) a w to the family surname, Hathorne. In his works he always tried to question (= mettere in dubbio) about the puritan belief that taught (= insegnava) that man was intrinsically evil in nature and Young Goodman Brown is an allegory about the recognition of evil and corruption of humanity. Hawthorne gives the characters names that remember their qualities and sins (= peccati), like in a Medieval Morality Play. At the end the names are seen as a paradox: Goodman Brown loses (= perde) his wife Faith, his faith in salvation, and his faith in human goodness.

The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) is a novel set in Massachusetts, a settlement in North America where people followed the Puritan belief. 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 (= medico) – goes to live in the same home as Arthur Dimmesdale, an ill minister (= prete). When 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 (= verità) and that wants to make the priest’s life an hell. (= vuole rendere un inferno la vita del prete) Hester tells Dimmesdale Chillingworth’s true identity and together they decide to leave on board of a ship, but unfortunately Chillingworth discovers 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 reveals the people the truth and opens 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)

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