SparkNotes Blog

Blogging The Scarlet Letter: Part 1

wakwy is taking on Puritan romance (kinda) The Scarlet Letter. Take it away, wakwy! –Sparkitors

First off, I’d like to say that, by blogging a literary classic, I am in no way trying to imitate the illustrious Dan Bergstein’s fabulous insights on the Twilight series, nor those of the almost-as-illustrious Coffinmaker on Wuthering Heights. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get on with the blog!

Here’s what I already know about The Scarlet Letter:

  • The main character is a lady named Hester Prynne.
  • She has to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest because she did the nasty with someone who wasn’t her husband.
  • This is Puritan Boston, so the townspeople have issues accepting people who aren’t all holy and stuff. Especially women who do the nasty with men who aren’t their husbands.

Chapter 1:

A bunch of people are standing around outside a prison, wearing such hilarious-sounding clothing as “steeple-crowned hats” and “sad-coloured grey garments.” The prison is covered with iron spikes, making it sound like something out of Lord of the Rings. So far I’m sensing a lot of symbolism here: grey = sadness. Spikes = orc battle gear.

Next to the prison is a cemetery, because these puritans were a real barrel of laughs. If I were a village planner, I would figure out where to put the fairgrounds and the mini golf course first, and then I would worry about building a prison and a cemetery. Among all this depressingness, there’s a lonely rose bush, hanging out next to Middle Earth Prison. The guy narrating the book decides to give a rose to the reader, which would be great, except I’M ALLERGIC TO FLOWERS. Thanks a lot, narrator!

And…that’s it for chapter 1. We’re off to a rousing start!

Chapter 2:

A bunch of people are standing around outside of a prison, wearing such hilarious-sounding…whoa, déjà vu! But this time, we’re actually going to meet some characters. The people are all Puritans, and are waiting to witness the punishment of a criminal. According to Nate H., these punishments can be pretty harsh. For example, there was one child who didn’t listen to his mom. She told the freaking police about it, and he got publicly whipped!

All the dorks in the prison yard who have nothing better to do are acting “solemn,” which we all know is just a fancy word for “bored” or “excited to see someone get whupped real good.”

There’s a group of middle-aged, fa—er, “sturdy” women standing around talking, one of whom suggests that someone take in the “malefactress” Hester Prynne, while another worries about the Reverend Dimmesdale and the effects of Prynne’s crimes on his congregation. Then, Old Lady #3 goes off about the judges not being harsh enough on Prynne. She’s all “They think sewing a letter onto her dress is good enough? I say burn it into her forehead! Even though she’ll just cover it up with a brooch or some other slutty slut jewelry!” These guys are MAJOR prudes.

The old ladies carry on arguing over whether Hester should be killed, branded, or covered in paper cuts and cast into the salty sea, until Hester herself walks out of the prison, carrying a small baby. Clearly these people haven’t read up on child care: who puts a BABY in a dungeon? It’s not her fault her mom had an affair! Speaking of, there’s a gaudy letter A, for “adulterer,” plastered across Hester’s chest.

By the way, Hester is a major hottie. The scene where she steps out of Middle Earth Prison is basically a L’Oreal commercial, but with a baby and a weird “A” dress. The townspeople (especially the women) get all upset (cough*jealous*cough), because Hester’s time in prison obviously wasn’t very rough on her sexay looks.

You know what? This scene isn’t realistic. Didn’t she sleep in jail? No one wakes up looking that good after they’ve slept, even if they have access to L’Oreal products! The jailer tells the townspeople that Hester will be on display for the next hour so that everyone can look at the scarlet letter on her chest, which is certainly convenient for the ogling menfolk. The jailer leads Hester on a Walk of Shame to the scaffold.

These people have serious issues. Yes, Hester cheated. We get that. I think we can all agree that cheating is wrong. But these people are harping on this poor girl waaay too much. For an hour, Hester endures the judgmental stares of all the townspeople, who seem to think they’re really great despite their eagerness to drive a girl who made a mistake nearly suicidal with shame.

Now for some back story on Hester, the poor, shamed adulterer: she lived in England until a few years before her imprisonment, when her husband, some guy who was old enough to be her dad-and-a-half, shipped her off to America. There, she had the affair that resulted in her baby, Pearl. Prynne reflects on all this, and is shocked to find herself where she is. And that’s it for chapter two.

Characters in order of preference: the color grey, Pearl, Hester, This One Guy Whose Name I Can’t Remember, The Prison, the Roses, Every Other Thing Mentioned In This Book, and, finally, the gaggle of gossipy old ladies.

Predictions: Grey will again be used as a “sad” color. Hester will become increasingly miserable from her intense shaming and die. Pearl’s secret father will die, too, but it’ll be from some old-timey disease like scurvy, because only women get majorly shamed for their illegitimate babies. After Hester’s dead, her old husband will marry a girl young enough to be his granddaughter, thus starting the whole cycle all over again.

Do you like The Scarlet Letter? More or less than you like the color grey and public shaming?

Related post: Blogging Wuthering Heights, Part 1

Exercise your incredible symbolism skills writing for SparkNotes! But please, no hot dogs = metaphysical angst metaphors. They’re overplayed.