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Literature Related to Native Americans and The Scarlet Letter
|| The following 18 chapters (1 - The Prison Door, 2 - The Market
Place, 3 - The Recognition, 4- The Interview, 5 - Hester at her Needle,
6 - Pearl, 7 - The Governor's Hall, 9 - The Leech, 10 - The Leech and his
Patient, 13 - Another View of Hester, 15 - Hester and Pearl, 16 - A Forest
Walk, 17 - The Pastor and his Parishner, 18 - A Flood of Sunshine, 19 -
The Child at the Brook-side, 20 - The Minister in a Maze, 22 - The Procession,
and 24 - Conclusion) give us glimpses of Hester and Pearl's passions reflected
in the imagery of the wilderness and the heathen Indian. These chapters
contrast the freedom of the forest and Hester's
home on the fringe of the forest with
| the constraints of the Puritans who have isolated
Hester and Pearl
. These chapters also examine the medical practices of Chillingsworth whose
knowledge of herbs gained during his time of captivity with the Indians
becomes terribly twisted as he used the herbs for evil and not for the healing
that the Indians had taught him.
- In Chapter 1 "The Prison-Door," Hawthorne
mentions the rose bush outside the prison that will survive many years
after the fall of huge pines and oaks that dwarf it. Although this excerpt
does not directly mention Indians, it indirectly refers to one of Hawthorne's
much used themes of the disappearance of the primordial forest as well
as the noble savage that inhabited the forest. He laments that both
text of Chapter 1 - "The Prison Door"
- In Chapter 2 "The Market Place," Hawthorne
makes reference to Indians as vagrants who have no useful function in
society and have succumbed to the disease of alcoholism. They are merely
riffraff to be shunned, mocked or driven from civilized society.
of Chapter 2 - "The Market Place"
- In Chapter 3 - "The Recognition," Hawthorne
makes four references to Indians. First he utilizes them kidnapping
Roger Chillingworth as part of the plot that partially explains his
two years absence from the side of his wife. An Indian is Chillingworth's
companion as he learns that his wife has committed adultery. Hawthorne
uses the word "savage" to describe part of Chillingworth's garb; undoubtedly
that part of his outfit would have been gleamed from his Indian captors.
Second he alludes to the historical practice of exchanging prisoners
for other prisoners or goods or money. Third Hawthorne ironically contrasts
how the punishing of "iniquity" must be such a marvelous contrast to
the behavior he observed among the Indians. Fourth he shows the easy
camaraderie Chillingworth has with the Indian - directly contrasting
the relationship we might have assumed a white man to have with Indians.
of chapter 3 - "The Recognition"
- In Chapter 4 - "The Interview," Hawthorne
makes six references to Indians and one reference to another, darker
inhabitant of the forest. Many of the references relate to the healing
talents and herbal medicinal knowledge that Chillingworth has adopted
and adapted from his Indian captors. References continue about the tradition
of ransoming Indian captives. Again Hawthorne refers to the forest,
home to these Indians, as "vast and dismal."
of chapter 4 - "The Interview"
- In Chapter 5 - "Hester at Her Needle,"
Hawthorne only alludes once to Indians as he mentions that Hester could
have found sanctuary among those who dwell in the forest and have different
of chapter 5 - "Hester at her Needle"
- In Chapter 6 - "Pearl," Hawthorne shows
the Puritan children imitating their elders and taking vengeance upon
their enemies such as the Quakers, witches, or Indians. He has the child
behave "savagely" as she throws stones and screams at those who taunt
her. He likens her behavior and strange words to a witch. But her behavior
could also be likened to an Indian whose language is unknown to the
of chapter 6 - "Pearl"
- In Chapter 7 - "The Governor's Hall,"
Hawthorne alludes to war against the now extinct Algonquian Massachusetts
Indians (1636-1637). He describes the armor Governor Bellingham wore
to fight against the Indians and then later displayed in his mansion.
It is curious that he alludes to Rev. Mr Blackstone (1595-1675.) This
early settler of Boston hated the Puritans so he allied himself with
the Indians after the Puritans arrived.
of chapter 7 - "The Governor's Hall"
- In Chapter 9 - "The Leech," Hawthorne
makes five references to Indians. Chillingworth and Dimmesdale become
housemates as well as doctor and patient. Hawthorne focuses on Chillingworth's
professional medicinal use of healing herbs that he learned from the
Indians. Some rumor that Chillingworth had engaged in suspicious chants
with the Indians. These might be compared to rumors of evil incantations
of the Black man of the forest.
of chapter 9 - "The Leech"
- In Chapter 10 - "The Leech and His Patient,"
Hawthorne shows a parallel between Chillingworth examining and gathering
evil-looking weeds from a grave, signifying unrevealed crimes with Pearl
examining and gathering burrs to throw upon her mother's scarlet A and
to throw at Dimmesdale, signifying a thorny link between her unacknowledged
parents that can't be shaken. Chillingworth has turned away from the
healing properties that the Indians taught and instead seeks to learn
the hidden secrets buried in sinners. Perhaps Pearl's behavior as she
skips irreverently among the tombstones could be likened to Indians
dancing at the celebration of death.
of chapter 10 - "The Leech and his Patient"
- In Chapter 13 - "Another View of Hester,"
shows how the scarlet letter's interpretation by the townspeople (as
well as Hawthorne) is constantly changing. Instead of being a badge
of shame, some now believe it to be a miraculous token that keeps Hester
safe. Again Chillingworth is found in his never-ending quest to gather
herbs and roots from which he intends to make medicine.
of chapter 13 - "Another View of Hester"
- In Chapter 15 - "Hester and Pearl," Hester
confronts Chillingworth as he gathers herbs, which she suspects are
no longer healing but of the poisonous, killing kind. Chillingworth
is untrue to the helping creed of medical people.
of chapter 15 - "Hester and Pearl"
- In Chapter 16 - "A Forest Walk," Hawthorne
explores not the Indian but the setting which might be inhabited by
Indians. This primeval forest where Hester chooses to meet Dimmesdale
lessens Hester's and Dimmesdale's links to Puritanical judgment and
condemnation. We see Dimmesdale returning from his missionary tasks
of ministering to his Indian converts which include the Apostle Eliot.
Pearl hearkens to the sunshine of the forest and never dwells in the
gloom inhabited by Puritan children. The brook, like Pearl, is a current
of chapter 16- "A Forest Walk"
- In Chapter 17 - "The Pastor and his Parishioner,"
Hawthorne shows how Hester and Dimmesdale in the forest will be freer
for a brief moment to taste a rekindling of their passion and to hope
for freedom from Chillingworth's persecution. Hester exhorts Dimmesdale
to find freedom in the forest of the Indian where he could be a missionary
or overseas where he could be a scholar.
of chapter 17- "The Pastor and his Parishioner"
- In Chapter 18 - "A Flood of Sunshine,"
Hawthorne examines the contrast between Hester and Dimmesdale as far
as how each was prepared to deal with the sin they had committed. Hester,
forced to wear the Scarlet A, was much freer and less tortured by Puritanical
standards than Dimmesdale who had hidden his sin. Hawthorne compares
Hester's freedom of mind and soul to the Indian who roams the woods
freely. She lives in a moral wilderness which Hawthorne likens to forest.
Dimmesdale moves in a barren desert. When Dimmesdale contemplates fleeing
his moral prison, his soul becomes liberated. Again Hawthorne uses images
of open sky and pure, easy breathing of clean air. Hester discards the
Scarlet A and unbinds her long hair, and nature, unbound by human laws,
shines sun on them and rejoices in their refound youth and beauty. Nature
like the Indian is called HEATHEN. Finally Pearl is shown in the forest
and although Hawthorne compares her to a nymph, he suggests that the
forest is her mother forest, the animals are her friends, and she is
in tune with all of nature, much like the Indian might have been in
this ANCIENT world.
of chapter 18- "A Flood of Sunshine"
- In Chapter 19 - "The Child at the Brook-side,"
much of the chapter which I am not including contains images of nature
that mirror Pearl's personality and mood. This forest is home to her
as it is home to Indians. When her anger is aroused because Hester has
thrown away the A and freed her hair, Pearl's behavior is like the stereotyped
behavior and shrieks of a wild Indian.
of chapter 19- "The Child at the Brook-side"
- In Chapter 20 - "The Minister in a Maze,"
Dimmesdale realizes that he is not fit to find freedom in relief
in the Indian wilderness but that he must flee to a more civilized,
less rugged Europe. Curiously, Dimmesdale has found energy through his
decision to join with Hester and flee his moral prison. The wilderness
energizes him and he meets the challenge of the tough terrain.
of chapter 20- "The Minister in a Maze"
- In Chapter 21 - "The New England Holiday,"
Pearl's dress appears to be part of nature. On this holiday celebrating
the new governor taking office, many have gathered including Indians
whose wildness is contrasted favorably with the undisciplined sailors,
who disregard all rules and morals of behavior.
of chapter 21- "The New England Holiday"
- In Chapter 22 - "The Procession," Hester
cannot find in Dimmesdale's formal clergical self any remnants of the
soul she loved in the forest where emotions are true. Mistress Hibbins
questions her own seeing of Dimmesdale who looks so different than he
did in the forest. Pearl with her wild nature attracts the attention
and admiration of Indians in the crowd. The town on this day of celebration
has been inundated by newcomers, including Indians, who are fascinated
and cruelly curious about Hester's Scarlet A. The Indians imagine it
to be a badge of honor.
of chapter 22- "The New England Holiday
- In the final chapter 24 - "Conclusion,"
there is no direct mention of Indians. Once again, however, Hawthorne,
shows us imagery relating to Chillingworth's meddling with the weeds
that he harvested. Chillingworth took his healing instincts and understanding
of healing herbs learned from the Indians and transformed them into
evil jealousy and revenge that ruined his life and the life of Dimmesdale.
of chapter 24- "Conclusion"
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