September 14, 2004

Scarlet Fever

Having read The Scarlet Letter once in high school, I despised the idea of a rereading. However, with a kick in the pants I got reading and surprisingly, realized that I can read Hawthorne without pain.

I don't know if it has something to do with the concept of critical thinking while reading or that I have just matured, but it isn't a jab-yourself-in-the-eye-with-a-pen experience anymore.

To assuage the concept of rereading, I likened the style to that of Melville, which I had previously mentioned better than AP high school reading, as well. They each write with a flowery concept that belies the simple plot. The intracacies of their style may take from the reader's interpretation of the story, but that does not mean that the story's happenings are the end-all-be-all of the work.

In response to Sara, I disagree; there is much enthusiasm in the writing. When Chillingworth, the old man--Hester's disguised husband, moves in with her minister lover: Dimmesdale, he picks his heart for clues to his indiscretion. Hawthorne's narrator, in response to this sorry scene, says, "Alas, to judge from the gloom and terror in the depths of the poor minister's eyes, the battle was a sore one, and the victory any thing but secure!"

The exclamation point alone is enough to show enthusiasm, but even more the fervor behind the narrator's diction; "terror," "sorry," and "gloom," for example, denote a crystalline scene of extreme, impassioned pain.

As for the plot, don't watch the movie, folks. Made that mistake in high school. Though the scenery is great and the actors: Moore and Oldman shine as the star-crossed couple, the plot is anything but true to the novel's concept.

The real plot is the only one that really works for this Puritanical society. But more about that later...

Though I do like reading more classical literature with flowery descriptions and such, I also like dialogue. The Scarlet Letter is very sparing with this type of communication--instead the reader is to conjecture what is going on between the characters. This gets pretty old around chapter 6. However, this method probably lends itself to the quiet, strained atmosphere of the Puritan town and what is held within, namely Dimmesdale's daily internal torture.

That is perhaps what I want to see most--Dimmesdale's decline. I know it is morbid, but there is something about watching a tragic hero fall slowly that makes me want to read on.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at September 14, 2004 10:20 AM

Amanda, you make a good point about dialogue. We're so used to TV and movies, in which the plot is driven by dialogue, and the mood is mostly determined by lighting and camera angles and such. In this novel, we don't always get the exact words of the speakers; we get summaries of what went on. Hmm... that gives me an idea...

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 14, 2004 12:37 PM

Don't get me wrong, I do love a good literary description...I am an Austen fiend.

Posted by: Amanda at September 16, 2004 4:55 PM

People of today tend to want action and reading is more auditory (in a sense) with dialogue being "the way to go." But, if we look at this book in context, Hawthorne was doing what every great Author does... appeal to an audience. But what makes the book good is the fact that Hawthorne was preaching Calvanist values to a crowd of Puritans.

In today's society, we tend to think "ho, hum, what's the big deal? People have affairs all the time, just ask Clinton." But at that time, in that society, it was a big deal and to that society, this was (and is) an extremely passionate book.

Posted by: Evan at September 18, 2004 3:27 PM

Great observation, Evan. I can't wait to have a literature class with you. :-D

Posted by: Amanda at October 10, 2004 3:41 PM
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