An Introduction to Posts on The Scarlet Letter
I realize that I haven’t posted very much about The Scarlet Letter yet. Part of that was because I was reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Another part of it is because I’ve already read and studied the book once in AP English my senior year of high school. So it’s far from being new to me, and I find my opinions on it to be the same. Still, none of you lovely blog readers have heard what I have to say about it yet, so I plan to begin very soon.
First, though, I think that I should write a bit about my history with the book so that you can understand some references that I plan to make and know a bit about the background upon which I’ll build. This is also in the interest of keeping some of my future posts a bit shorter than they otherwise would have been.
The first time I read The Scarlet Letter was in AP English 3, which I took my senior year of high school. This was an optional extra quarter after the regular AP English in the beginning of the year. Because of this, we only had about 7 or 8 students, if my memory serves me correctly, and those of us who were in the class were all on very good terms with each other because we had already gotten to know one another and were taking the class because of a common interest in it. So we all had a lot of fun.
We also had no scruples about loudly expressing our opinions about a book, author, or a character, particularly when that book, author, or character was annoying or easily open to ridicule or otherwise contentious. During the first quarter, we picked on Codi from Animal Dreams almost mercilessly so that it became a kind of running joke. Later, we mocked Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Collins. When we found out that The Things They Carried was not in fact a series of true stories and that none of the characters were real, there was a general uproar for days: “But the dedication was made out to them!” “How could he lie to us like that?”
The Scarlet Letter was no different. We commandeered an entire whiteboard in the classroom to draw a picture of the little Puritan establishment in mulit-colored markers and refused to let the teacher erase it for weeks. I wish I had a photo of it to post on this blog. We had everything from the scaffold to the woods where the “Black Man”* wandered to the distant ocean where ships could be seen bringing more Puritans to the righteous new land. We drew Pearl with little butterfly wings under the caption “I’m the faerie child!” My favorite part was where we labeled one of the forest trees as the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and drew in a Puritan man wielding an ax: “I shall chop down yonder tree, methinks!”
We also took some cues from our teacher, who had taught the book many times before. Because of her, we all got into the habit of calling Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale “Chilly” and “Dimmy”.
To Tie This Back to My Blog
These experiences have affected the way I view all the books we read in that class, including The Scarlet Letter. They have also given me a foundation of ideas about characters, symbolism, themes, and more because we studied and discussed these books in detail. Combine that with the fact that I’m studying The Scarlet Letter again for my American Lit class, and you may be in for posts referencing discussions and general opinions drawn from two classes’ worth of experience. That ought to make things interesting.
* Although this may sound a bit racist, it really isn’t. The “Black Man” is what the Puritans called the devil. I assume they used the word “black” to reference darkness or evil.