+ ENGLISH III AP: Scarlett Letter +
The Scarlet Letter
A Reading Log by Brandon Moeller
English III AP Fisher-7
CHAPTER 1- The Prison-Door-
I found this one page introductory chapter to be very dramatic as it explained the history
of the colony by telling the history of the prison-door. From the looks of this chapter, this story
will probably be dragged out as much as possible.
At first I thought the way Nathaniel Hawthorne approached the latter half of the last
paragraph was annoying, but when I read the chapter the second time, it appealed to me. The
relationship that Hawthorne is attempting to establish with the reader in this paragraph is very
interesting. That pink highlighted section in my book convinced me that even though having
students read a book over a very short summer vacation is a bad, misguided idea, the book
you're making us read isn't as bad.
CHAPTER 2- The Market Place-
This chapter tells of Hester Prynne being led through the city and in to the market place
with the finely stitched Scarlet Letter. She walks protecting her young child against her bosom
as she is scorned by the crowd. Her punishment is quote "as effectual an agent, in the
promotion of good citizenship as ever was the guillotine among the terrorists of France," (Page
52, pink highlight). Instead of using the pillory, which would lock a person's head and hands
together where they could not move and be forced to not be able to show their humiliation. "No
outrage more flagrant to forbid the culprit to hide his face from shame," is in Hawthorne's
commentary on page 53.
Hawthorne's commentary appears twice on this page (about more than one topic) and
you can see them in my highlighted sections. What really got to me was the second highlighted
section on that page where Hawthorne is comparing/contrasting the nurturing image of a mother
and her son to Prynne. The passage speaks of Prynne's sin tainting the image, therefore the
crowd was lost for Prynne's beauty and the infant's innocence. I think the passage is beautiful in
that it made me think about how society plays a role in interpreting what is good and bad.
CHAPTER 3- The Recognition-
The recognition came when a mysterious wanderer met eyes with Prynne. Through the
vagabond we find out why Hester Prynne has the Scarlet Letter. The passage that I really like in
this chapter is the dialog between the could-be-called "city council members" and Prynne. My
highlighted parts are on page 63 and 64. On page 63, the reverend Mr. Dimmesdale tries to
convince her to give up the name of the man that tempted her by saying that it would be better
for him, and that he wouldn't have to revel in his guilt for the rest of his life. He later said,
temper raising, "Speak-- to take the Scarlet Letter off..." But Prynne replies that it is too deeply
branded to ever be removed. I think that this dialog shows her "wondrous strength," and an
attitude worthy of the main character in such a riveting book.
CHAPTER 4- The Interview-
The mysterious wanderer "whose presence in the crowd (In chapter 3) had been of such
deep interest to the wearer of the scarlet letter" was thrown into the same jail cell as Prynne
because he knew Indians that would pay a ransom to get him out. (Above quote from page 66,
underlined sentence.) He turned out to know something about medicine and soothed the infant,
that in the pink highlighted selection on page 66, was in turmoil, anguish and despair. He also
gave something to Prynne which soothed her. Then it became evident to the reader that this
mysterious guy- a so called Mr. Roger Chillingworth- was the husband to Prynne when she
cheated on him in the act of adultery.
Mr. Chillingworth told her that their marriage was really never one of love, and he didn't
show any hate towards her in the prison interview. They established that they wronged each
other. I think they both have valid points. He wronged her by marrying her when it wasn't out of
love and she wronged him by cheating on him. Mr. Chillingworth continued and said that he
wanted to know who her lover was but she didn't tell him so he made a deal. If Prynne would
never reveal that he, Mr. Chillingworth, was ever married to her, he wouldn't harm her lover.
But if she told her lover who he was, then Mr. Chillingworth will kill her lover.
CHAPTER 5- Hester at her Needle-
Here we find Prynne's prison term to be over and she is released back into society. In
this chapter it is explained to us why Prynne doesn't just go off to another part in the world where
she wouldn't be constricted to wearing the scarlet letter. On page 74, my highlighted text reads
"Her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck into the soil." I can compare what
Hawthorne is getting across with a rock song by the Smashing Pumpkins called "Tonight,
Tonight." In the song, lead singer Billy Corgan bellows "You can never ever leave, without
leaving a piece of you." This is how Prynne feels in the book right now. She doesn't think
running away could cleanse her sin and she believes that staying there and living out her
punishment is the only way for penance.
Also in this chapter, we find that Prynne's handiness with a needle lands her jobs making
beautiful costumes for high officials and she quickly becomes the most sought after fashion
designer of her time. (She's comparable with Tommy Hilfigger, who is gay, yet is still one of the
most expensive brands of clothing in the malls today, despite his sin.) Hence the name of the
chapter, we also find that Prynne stitched a wedding veil, which was very ironic to me since the
veil represents innocence and Prynne was looked down upon in her Puritan society for being
The long paragraphs in this chapter is starting to annoy me and sometimes it gets hard
to follow due to it. Page 80 is one big paragraph. If I was an editor of this book I would have
probably cut this chapter and just insert the important parts in other places in the book. This
chapter, to me, just doesn't have that much significance on its own and doesn't have enough
action in it. It seems as if Hawthorne is just dragging this out.
CHAPTER 6- Pearl-
In this chapter, Hawthorne finally gets around to doing characterization on Prynne's
daughter, Pearl. She was named this "as being of great price,- purchased with all she had,- her
mother's only treasure!"
The child grew up to be wild, which might have been due to the lack of spankings the kid
had, as it says on page 84, that Prynne didn't believe in such punishment. Pearl often had a look
"so perverse, sometimes so malicious... that Hester could not help questioning,.., whether Pearl
were a human child." Hawthorne uses dramatic approaches at convincing the reader that this
child is not normal, despite her physical beauty. It cites times where Pearl would throw sticks
and stones at the Puritan children when they pointed and stared at her in the town square. (The
kids would yell back "Sticks and stones may break our bones... but yo' motha got a scarlet letter,"
followed with an abrupt "thhhbth!")
But seriously, the kid started to scare me. In a very unbelievable (When I say
unbelievable, I mean I don't think any kid would say this.) dialog at the end of the chapter,
Prynne asks the child "What thou art, and who sent thee hither?" The child turns the question
back on her mother and Prynne says that the Heavenly Father put her there. The kid replies, "I
have no Heavenly Father!" I don't know what the kid was thinking when she said this and I have
no idea if it has any significance except to show the child's defiance. I wonder if this is God's
punishment for Prynne, giving her such a devious daughter for her sins.
CHAPTER 7- The Governor's Hall-
In this chapter we find our main character taking her daughter to Governor Bellingham's
house to deliver some embroidered gloves and to discuss the rumors going around about her
daughter being separated from her. This was another chapter that should/could have been cut
because it practically just describes the governor's hall. A matter-of-fact there wasn't any
conversation between the governor and Prynne.
The only two good things about this chapter is that it reveals why the population wants to
separate Prynne and Pearl and it relates the analogy of the scarlet letter and Pearl's gorgeous
garb. I found both of these selections (The pink highlights on page 92-93) to be well written,
using Hawthorne's skill for long sentences and a lot of commas.
CHAPTER 8- The Elf-Child and the Minister-
In this installation we find Governor Bellingham and company trying to take Pearl away
from Prynne. Their valid argument was that this perverse elf-child could never get the spiritual
growth deemed necessary of the times from the "scarlet woman." But the highly popular
Reverend Dimmesdale came to her cause and said "it is good for this poor, sinful woman."
What really struck me in this chapter was that it showed that God gave Prynne Pearl so
that she may be saved by Pearl, if Prynne raises her right in the Lord. (As on page 105 in my
pink highlight at the bottom.) I think that if Mr. Dimmesdale didn't say this, that the Governor
would be lessening Prynne's punishment by not letting her see the daily reminder of her sin. I
enjoyed this chapter because of the rich dialog, but also because it had a could be parable at the
end of it about a witch tempting Prynne to go to a satanic ceremony with her but Prynne declined
because of Pearl, and probably wouldn't have if they had taken Pearl away from her.
CHAPTER 9- The Leech-
The previously mentioned Roger Chillingworth becomes friends with Reverend
Dimmesdale in this chapter. They became friends because they were both smart, yet their fields
of interest were different. Chillingworth was a popular physician of the time and due to
Dimmesdale's deteriorating health condition, they ended up living together. At first the people
were happy to see that they were living together, because they didn't want the reverend to die
and the physician would always be at his side. Then the people began to see the evil in
Chillingworth and prayed that the reverend would overcome it. I predict that the reverend will
overcome the evil influence and they will help each other- the minister with Chillingworth's
spirituality and the physician with the reverend's health.
CHAPTER 10- The Leech and his Patient-
The relationship between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth is put to the test in this chapter
when Chillingworth tells the reverend that his physical weakness must signify him hiding
something in his soul. Chillingworth and Dimmesdale even partook in a conversation earlier I n
the chapter about what secrets can do to a man's soul. Chillingworth kept pushing in searching
for what Dimmesdale was keeping hidden that the reverend became sick again. When
Dimmesdale was sleeping, Chillingworth found what Dimmesdale was hiding and he delighted in
it as evil as the devil.
The description of what Chillingworth felt at that moment is in my highlight on page 127,
in my mind can only because Chillingworth found out that Dimmesdale was the one that tempted
Prynne into cheating. Chillingworth has found the one he hates so much!!!
CHAPTER 11- The Interior of a Heart-
This chapter is a beautiful voyage into Dimmesdale's mind, as it investigates what is
torturing him and the ever-failing methods he uses to purify his soul. This chapter also shows
how Chillingworth could torment him more because he knows his secret.
The reader learns a lot about Dimmesdale's character through this chapter and how he's
longed to get his burden off his chest, and hated being a hypocrite. An idea came to him one
night as he fasted and he left his house...
CHAPTER 12- The Minister's Vigil-
The vigil found Reverend Dimmesdale at the scaffold where Prynne was publicly
embarrassed about seven years ago. The reverend came there so that maybe someone would
come by and see him there and awake the rest of the town so that they may all see his shame
but it did no happen this way. The only people that saw him there was Prynne and Pearl and the
physician Chillingworth who had followed him there. He even yelled, at such an intensity that it
was sure to wake up everybody in the town but it didn't work, nobody came out to see him on the
scaffold. Chillingworth eventually convinced him to come back home and he did, when he
realized that he really wasn't ready for public shame. A meteorite fell from the sky that night and
painted the sky with a scarlet "A."
I think the "A" represents Dimmesdale's sin, and although he isn't ready to disclose it, the
meteorite-a sign from God- was. I also think that he isn't ready to reveal his shame in front of
people because Pearl gave him an opportunity to be judged in front of the people the next day
but he declined. I also think the yell that he emitted that he followed with a conspicuous laugh
was a cry for help, in which I think only Prynne and Pearl can cater to in the chapters to come.
Due to Hawthorne's great skill of characterization, and my own part in being able to
identify with this reverend so much, I therefore decree that Dimmesdale is my favorite character
in this whole book.
CHAPTER 13- Another View of Hester-
This is a voyage through Prynne's thoughts and feelings about how society is starting to
accept her again as someone who has a big heart full of mercy, sympathy and love. Some of
the town's people "refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification" and "said that it
meant Able" instead. (Page 148)
My favorite passage in this chapter was on page 153, highlighted in pink of course. The
passage states that Prynne had climbed to a higher place through her good deeds, yet
Chillingworth has only dropped down to as low as Prynne's because of his vengeful motions and
tormenting the poor Reverend Dimmesdale. So Prynne will go and have a chat with the
physician about all his hate and try to do something about it.
CHAPTER 14- Hester and the Physician-
In this chapter Prynne tries to convince Chillingworth in a formal argument to be a little
less vengeful to Dimmesdale. Prynne even stated that it should be her that Chillingworth should
be mad at, in my highlighted text on page 158. But Chillingworth rebutted by saying that the
scarlet letter was in itself enough punishment for Prynne and that he couldn't do anymore to her,
therefore he must seek revenge on the reverend and haunt him daily. Prynne then said in my
highlighted text on page 159 that it might be good for Chillingworth to pardon Dimmesdale's sin
so that they may both live in harmony, but Chillingworth doesn't believe he is privileged enough
to do so.
I believe that Chillingworth does know how to forgive Dimmesdale, yet he won't until
Dimmesdale's tortured life is plucked away from him one day at a time. This gives Prynne no
other choice but to tell Mr. Dimmesdale who Mr. Chillingworth really is.
CHAPTER 15- Hester and Pearl-
I'm really starting to admire Hawthorne's writing style and his skill of using SHOW NOT
TELL CHARACTERIZATION. It's awesome. But anyway, in this chapter Hester spends quality
time with her daughter and her daughter asks her what the scarlet letter means. Prynne almost
tells her the meaning, but out of fear of her not being able to understand and not wanting to have
her feel the shame that she's borne for so long she let's it slide. On page 165, my underlined
text says that she shouldn't tell her what it means just to get sympathy. The child keeps asking
and Prynne keeps rebuking her.
This is a short chapter, but it describes Prynne's love for her daughter, because she
doesn't want her to feel the shame she has for the seven long years that pearl has been alive.
Motherly love at its best.
CHAPTER 16- A Forest Walk-
Prynne takes Pearl into the forest in this chapter so that she may "bump into" the
minister as he comes back from one of his trips. As Prynne makes her way through the forest,
Pearl asks her about the Black Man, who is a disciple of Satan and who has people sign their
name into his black book with their own blood. Prynne then tells her that she has met the Black
Man once and that the scarlet letter is his mark on her. (Page 170)
This chapter also gives an analogy between Pearl and the brook running through the
forest. Hawthorne compares them because they came forth from a mysterious place and some
of the things that they've been through have been "heavy with gloom." But in contrast, Pearl was
free to go wherever she wanted to and therefore change the outcome of her life in any way that
she chooses. I thought this analogy was very effective for this elf-child, and I can't wait to see
what becomes of her in the next seven chapters.
CHAPTER 17- The Pastor and his Parishioner-
This chapter is one of my favorite because of the interview that Prynne and Dimmesdale
have in the forest. After breaking the ice Dimmesdale has his question about finding peace
turned back upon him to which he can only answer that he's never found it. He also says that
the good deeds that he does only brings more misery. The pastor also relates that if he could
have only had his shame open to all people like in the form of the scarlet letter upon his breast,
he would be much better off. They comfort each other, Dimmesdale especially as Prynne tells
him of his enemy. Hawthorne also goes into how Chillingworth made the reverend go insane (In
my highlighted text on page 177) and how he alienated him from every thing that was Good and
True. The reverend reluctantly forgives Prynne after he realizes that it is not doing him any good
not to forgive and that it is only making him sicker. The reverend also realizes that Chillingworth
is more of a sinner than he is due to is vengeful actions and tearing his heart apart.
So with all of this burden off the reverend, yet with Chillingworth still around to cause him
pain, Prynne tells the reverend to run to a distant land where Chillingworth could never follow
him and under another name continue to do God's work. But the reverend says "I am powerless
to go!" Then the reverend said he could never venture out alone into the wide world at which
Prynne said and I quote, "Who was talking about being alone?" I think they will now do what I
would have done from the start- "run like hell," which reminds me of a classic Pink Floyd song of
the same name which some of the lyrics are "You better make your face up in your favorite
disguise/ With your button down hips and your rather blind eyes/ With your empty smile and your
hungry heart/ Feel the bile rising from your guilty past/ With your nerves in tatters as the
cockleshell shatters/ And the hammers batter down the door/ You better run."
CHAPTER 18- A Flood of Sunshine-
Here Dimmesdale decides to go with Prynne out of this Puritan city where they dwell to
pursue a new life. Dimmesdale questions in ecstasy on page 185 why they hadn't done this
sooner and Prynne takes the scarlet letter off and flings it close to the brook. I pity the man that
might find this bright colored decoration and be haunted with the former evil spirit of Hester
On page 186 it says that "Love must always create a sun shine," and for Prynne and
Dimmesdale, their sunshine is Pearl who seems to attract all of the animals. Dimmesdale
ponders if the young girl will accept him and love him, something the mother is sure of.
CHAPTER 19- The Child at the Brook-side-
I didn't expect the child to act as it did in this chapter. It did not know it's mother without
her scarlet letter and her head cap. And feeling threatened by the reverend, would not show him
any love. And when the reverend kissed her in an effort to be welcome in her heart, she ran to
wash it off in the brook.
I don't think the relationship with these three will work. Something, somehow will go
wrong. I think Pearl will play a big part in it but it won't be all her fault.
CHAPTER 20- The Minister in a Maze-
As the minister found his way back to town, his thoughts drifted from their escape plans
to how he could no longer be two different people. Hawthorne put it richly on page 197 by
writing, "No man for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the
multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true." So as the minister walked
into town, he felt lighter and he saw every thing in a different light as well. He saw one of his
deacons and was tempted to spit forth blasphemous things but barely kept himself from it. He
also whispered some strange things in an old elderly woman's ear about an argument against the
immorality of the human soul. He also encountered the witch Mistress Hibbins and he denied
being a satanic follower as she was convinced he was. Thus , he went through a maze of
different people in the town.
When he finally got home, Chillingworth asked him if he needed any aid before his big
election speech. The reverend graciously declined, yet Chillingworth could tell that he knew that
they were enemies.
CHAPTER 21- The New England Holiday-
This chapter spent way too much time describing the election party and it terribly bored
me to death. At the end of the chapter we see the captain of the boat talking with Chillingworth
and then the captain of the boat tells Prynne that Chillingworth will be riding with them. I predict
that all three of them will somehow, some way stay in the puritan town and none of them run
from their shame.
CHAPTER 22- The Procession-
This chapter was a little better. The crowd gathers and watches as all of the high
officials and such walk in with the reverend. The reverend walks in such a different style as he
ever has that even Prynne doubts that it is the same person of whom she conferred with by the
side of the brook. The witch-Mistress Hibbins tells Prynne that he looks different too- not the
same guy of religious piety, but more of a follower of the devil who has some sins, yet Prynne
denies that she knows of any thing that she speaks.
As Prynne is listening to the speech, Pearl goes and plays in the market place with all
the people and everybody seems to think she is darling. The captain of the boat tells her to tell
her mom that Chillingworth is planning on taking the minister on the boat with him. Mobs of
newcomers stare at the infamous scarlet letter on Prynne's bosom and it evokes much shame,
and Dimmesdale overlooking thinks to himself that nobody would imagine that they were both
one in the same.
CHAPTER 23- The Revelation-
The reverend finished his election sermon and the crowd went wild, for they were all
touched with the holy spirit at that moment. They thought of him as a saint and when they saw
him stumble into the procession, they figured that it was his holiness that was drained from him
and distributed throughout the people that made him weak. But it was his revelation that he was
about to give that made him tremble so.
Dimmesdale called Prynne and Pearl close to him and went up o the scaffold to disclose
his sin in front of the people. At this Chillingworth puts forth one last effort to try to stop him from
doing it, but he was too late... the reverend would not be stopped. He told of his sin and died up
What I really liked in the dialog between Prynne and Dimmesdale up there was when
Prynne asked him if they shall spend their immortal life together. To this the reverend replied
that when they forgot God by violating the reverence for each of their soul's, that it was in vain to
ever seek a heavenly reunion. (Page 233 pink highlight.) This hit me because it seemed that
that was the only thing that they wanted after they were to leave the puritan city, but it never
came true because God didn't want it to be in the first place.
CHAPTER 24- Conclusion-
There were many theories on the origin of the scarlet A on Dimmesdale's breast when he
strewn his clothes on the scaffold. Some say that it had been there ever since Prynne was first
publicly humiliated. Others say that it only appeared after Chillingworth began to torment him.
Still others believe that it had grown outward from his heart as he kept his unholy secret. I won't
comment on which I believe it to be because it could have been a combination of all three for all
I'm concerned. This ending chapter also tells how Chillingworth just withered up and died, being
that he had no one else to torture. But in his will he left Pearl a great deal of land abroad where
it was heard that the child got married and lived happily ever after. It is said that Prynne went
with her, then returned a short time after. Her door was marked with a sign that practically told of
whom lived there.
I think this was an excellent book and I'm really glad I read it. I think I learned from it,
being that it is better to wear your shame than to hide it. It was beautifully written, it was
dramatic and very climatic. I enjoyed this summer reading assignment even though I would
have preferred to have done it during the regular school year.
Scarlet Letter Reading Log
"Thus marks another Brandon Moeller masterpiece."
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