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1. "The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison." (41).
This quote is important because it is a foreshadowing of what is to happen in the future chapters. No matter what kind of a perfect society people hope for when it is first built, they recognize that there will be negative things that happen within the society and so they dedicate part of the land to the cemetery and another part to the prison. One of the themes in this novel is sin; this quote is a reflection of how people view sin, and how it is inevitable and expected to a certain point. Sin is something that is committed by all mankind, but it is detrimental to society and unfortunately cannot be avoided. The sin of human nature is what leads to the downfall of a society.
Chapter 2: The Symbol of Shame
"But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer,-so that both men and women, who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne, were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time,-was that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom." (46)
This quote is important because it reveals a little bit about Hester's character. Despite negative conviction of the scarlet letter, she does not allow that to dampen her confidence. The scarlet letter is described as "fantastically embroidered" in this quote which shows that although the letter is supposed to symbolize shame in the community, Hester doesn't necessarily take it this way. Much description is put into what the letter looks like rather than the real problem that is at hand; Pearl. The people should be focusing on what they should do with Pearl, but instead they are focusing on "humiliating" Hester which is not of great importance in the grand scheme of things.
Chapter 3: The Realization
"When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips." (53)
This is when Hester's husband has seen her sin and is now beginning his revenge. There is most likely a mixture of emotions surging throughout this man's body as he has discovered for the first time that he has been betrayed by his wife. Although Hester is supposed to be the one who is publicly humiliated in front of the community, her husband is most likely feeling the same embarrassment. In a situation in which a person is humiliated to this extent it is natural to feel enraged to the point of taking revenge. The level of love he felt for Hester is trivial in relation to the public humiliation she has caused him.
Chapter 4: The Asking
"After her return to the prison, Hester Prynne was found to be in a state of nervous excitement that demanded constant watchfulness, lest she should perpetrate violence on herself, or do some half-frenzied mischief to the poor babe." (60).
People are afraid of how Hester will treat Pearl. No one is quite certain of Hester's qualifications to be a good mother to her child. This shows a little bit about her personality and how she is a little selfish in the sense that she is only aware of her own feelings and surroundings. She shows little concern for her daughter Pearl, and is wrapped up in this sticky situation. Pearl is described as a "poor babe" while Hester is described as a "half-frenzied mischief". Hester can only be viewed in this manner because she is completely absorbed in her own situation. In the future the Pearl may face many more hardships than Hester is currently facing if this keeps up.
Chapter 5: The Seamstress
" But there is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it." (67).
Hester has the choice to leave to any other place if she chose to, but she doesn't because she feels rooted to this place where she has a deep connection to. She voluntarily chooses to stay even though she is faced with public humiliation on a daily basis. It is still unclear as to why she is choosing to stay in this place. It would be much more convenient to run away from this disgraceful situation, yet she decides against it and stays. I believe that Hester stays here because she is in love with the father of Pearl. It would be hard to stay in a place where you are looked down on that much if you were no reason for her to endure this. If she is to stay in her hometown much longer, she must be able to endure being looked down upon and degraded on a daily basis.
Chapter 6: Hester's Prize Possession
"Heart-smitten at this bewildering and baffling spell, that so often came between herself and her sole treasure, whom she had bought so dear, and who was all her world, Hester sometimes burst into passionate tears." (76-77)
Pearl has become one of Hester's greatest treasures. Although it didn't appear that way at first, it is evident now that Pearl is the most valuable thing in Hester's life. Although Pearl is such a treasure to her mother, she is also a constant reminder of the shame and agony she had to endure while living in the town. Hester is bursting into passionate tears because she is overwhelmed with love for her own daughter. Pearl is now growing up and it will be time for Hester to explain everything to Pearl. Hester will always feel torn between giving Pearl her full love and feeling like she has brought about much pain and agony. Pearl will always be a symbol of the irreversible choice that Hester made.
Chapter 7: Pearl's Strength
"But Pearl, who was a dauntless child, after frowning, stamping her foot, and shaking her little hand with a variety of threatening gestures, suddenly made a rush at the knot of her enemies, and put them all to flight." (85).
Hester and Pearl are being made fun of prior to this quote. Hester and Pearl cannot escape criticism from the public because of the fact that Pearl is an illegitimate child. At this point, Pearl and Hester interpret this situation from different points of views. While Hester is pained, grieved, and embarrassed at the situation, Pearl takes a different approach to it. She is "dauntless" and stands up to anyone who approaches her. It may be due to her naivety that she is unaware of the situation around her, but she is also very strong. Pearl's strength complements her mother's weak personality and nature.
Chapter 8: Pearl Defends Her Mother
"Or art thou one of those naughty elfs or fairies, whom we thought to have left behind us, with other relics of Papistry, in merry old England?" (91).
When Pearl is teased by the group of gentlemen that walk into the room, they call her hurtful names that should have made any child cry. Instead of backing down and crying, Pearl replies curtly and even refuses to answer some of their questions. No one knows exactly what to make of Pearl because she is an illegitimate child that is so strong headed and does not crack under any kind of pressure. They think she may be demonic, or that Hester is not a very good mother to Pearl. This reflects how jaded society's views are and how they just want to separate Pearl from Hester. It is one thing to show animosity towards Hester, who should have to bear the blame, because she is the one that caused the problem, but it is an entirely different story to be teasing Pearl, who has no fault. It is very fortunate that Pearl has such a strong head and personality.
Chapter 9: The Dark Man
"This purpose once effected, new interests would immediately spring up, and likewise a new purpose; dark, it is true, if not guilty, but of force enough to engage the full strength of his faculties." (98).
Chillingworth is one of the darker characters in this story. He is consumed by his greed and selfishness which allow for him to be the way he is. He cares about nothing other than himself, and although he was once married to Hester, he does not care about her enough to share half the blame for the birth of Pearl. The quote says that the force was "enough to engage the full strength of his faculties," meaning that it was enough to consume him completely. That quote implies that Chillingworth would go to great lengths to destroy Hester and get revenge on her, and the father of Pearl. However, this is not because he is angry at the man for stealing Hester, it is rather because he is upset that this man is the cause of what could be the same humiliation that Hester is facing. Chillingworth is a frightful character because he keeps his eyes on his goals and doesn't want anything to interfere with what he has in mind; revenge.
Chapter 10: Trust No One
"Trusting no man as his friend, he could not recognize his enemy when the latter actually appeared. He therefore still kept up a familiar intercourse with him, daily receiving the old physician in his study; or visiting the laboratory, and, for recreation's sake, watching the processes by which weeds were converted into drugs of potency."(108).
Chillingworth is drawing Dimmesdale deeper and deeper into his trap to get revenge on Hester Prynne. Dimmesdale is unsuspecting of Chillingworth because of his emotional state. He is no longer trusting of any man, and if it weren't for his sickness, he would have been able to see the lying and scheming that Chillingworth was up to. Dimmesdale is a very delicate state right now, as he is very worried about being discovered as the father of Pearl. This is a reflection of what guilt can do to a person. Dimmesdale may have gotten away from public humiliation, but inside he is dying from the guilt that must live with every day. Being someone that is a reverend, he is regarded as someone who should be reflecting a holy lifestyle, yet that is not the case. It is hard to say which is worse, emotional torture or public humiliation.
Chapter 11: Unbearable Guilt
"It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him! It was his genuine impulse to adore the truth, and to reckon all things shadow-like, and utterly devoid of weight or value, that had not its divine essence as the life within their life.Â " (119).
Dimmesdale is going through a battle within his own heart. As his beliefs teach, he should be honest, and upright, yet, he failed the public. He is afraid to admit his faults before the congregation because he is afraid how people will view him. One of the most faulty things about Dimmesdale's personality, is the fact that he is so afraid of what other people will think of him. He is constantly living in fear; unable to face his congregation because of the guilt he is feeling. He pours out his guilt through the sermons on sin, and his sermons are a reflection of the condition of his heart. Dimmesdale will not be able to overcome these feelings until he spits out the truth to everyone.
Chapter 12: The Truth Revealed
"Pearl mumbled something into his ear, that sounded, indeed, like human language, but was only such gibberish as children may be heard amusing themselves with, by the hour together." (129).
Pearl is getting revenge on Dimmesdale for not owning up to his wrong actions. Even though he was suffering on the inside, it seems that Pearl really wanted him to come out with the truth the way her mother had to on a daily basis. She refuses to tell Dimmesdale who Chillingworth really is because she knows that it will torture him even more. This means of torment might make Dimmesdale go crazy with anticipation, and he will begin to slowly go mental. Although Pearl is very young, she is very perceptive to the world around her. She is quickly picking up on things that even most of the society has not yet picked up on. She is smart enough to use this information to her advantage instead of revealing it to the public.