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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Handout
Product Description
My university students have found very helpful this overview lecture/handout on "The Scarlet Letter." It begins with an analysis of the theme, showing how each major character represents a major American philosophical movement up to Hawthorne’s time: 17th-century Puritanism (Minister Dimmesdale, Hester’s secret lover); 18th-century Rationalism (Chillingworth, her husband and a cold-hearted rationalist); and two aspects of early-19th-century Transcendentalism: Romanticism (the passionate Hester, she of the scarlet letter) and Naturalism (the illegitimate Pearl, a “child of nature”).
Other sections of the lecture/handout analyze the historical background of the novel, its structure, its symbolism (of names, color, and religion), and its major and minor characters.
A special section is devoted to the use of words beginning with the letter “A.” I usually begin by asking students a question with an obvious answer: “What does the scarlet ‘A’ stand for?” The immediate response is “duh, adultery!” I reply, “A large number of key words in the novel, around 500, begin with the letter ‘A.’ However, ‘adultery’ and its variants, I hate to burst your bubble, never appear.” With that hint, I have found my students more carefully read the novel, looking to prove me wrong or to find the c. 500. Pages 11-16 of this handout lists chapter-by-chapter the key “A” words, with my commentary on the thematic importance of many of them.
Designed as a lecture or a handout, there are no blanks to be filled in; hence, no answer key is needed.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.
Total Pages
16 pages
Answer Key
Does not apply
Teaching Duration
3 hours
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$5.00
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