Sunday, February 22, 2015

FOLLOWING THE THEME....Unlocking the Secrets

In my experience as a literature teacher, I have learned that the one thing that usually stumps the literature scholar is theme.  First of all, it takes a scholar awhile to fully comprehend what a theme is...what it means.  It's more than just the lesson, isn't it?  It's too universal to be summed up that way.  But it certainly is a message...it's an important truth or observation that the author is making about his or her world...not just his or her created world, but the world, in general.

Once a scholar seems to have an understanding of what theme is, then comes the fun of finding them.  That's right, them.  Very seldom to you find a novel that has only one.  Of course, there may be an overriding theme, an "umbrella" theme, but there are often many others lining up, hidden amongst the words and phrases, intermingling with the dialogue, waiting to be uncovered to sweeten the story.

You will be assigned a poster project this week.  You will have a choice to create a character collage poster, or a theme collage.  Whichever you choose, however, theme is important.  It not only drives the deeper meaning, it also drives the character--it can even be his or her major motivation, objective, or source of conflict.  It matters.

The following is more than an article, it is an exploration into several themes for The Scarlett Letter.  Have fun exploring, and let me know here which theme you found most compelling.

Happy unlocking!
http://www.shmoop.com/scarlet-letter/themes.html

29 comments:

  1. This is hard...
    These are solid themes that I could do a lot with. I don't know how I could one. The one I find most compelling is hypocrisy because it's defiantly something I have a lot of opinions on. Then again, revenge is something I would be very interesting in studying because it's just a scandalous topic in a sense. You're taught when you're younger "Forgive and forget" "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." The idea of making someone pay for crossing you is rebellious and very alluring. It's going to be tough to choose.

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  2. I have chosen Hypocrisy. It stands out to me the most because I just think its really interesting how people can let Hester stand out ostracized in public for a sin she got caught for, yet every single person in the crowd has a sin. The only difference is they have not gotten caught. The story about Jesus and throwing the stone has really stuck with me because how can you treat someone so poorly for something they have done wrong yet you stand there and have so many sins your self. Hypocrisy, you see it everywhere and in any time. Today a lot as well, everyone can shun and make judgment about people and things they see on the Internet yet we never stop and look at what we have done.

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  3. I found revenge most compelling because in the beginning of the book when Roger Chillingworth is introduced and he interviews Hester, he acts all nonchalant about the whole ordeal. I know I didn't really expect anything from him other than him finding out who slept with his wife. When I read the little paragraph about revenge, it definitely surprised me to find that Roger Chillingsworth was seeking revenge in the first place. Especially for keeping at his revenge for 7 years... that's a bit extreme and it makes me excited to read what he's going to do to Hester's lover...

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  4. I found it very interesting that there are so many themes running throughout this novel, eleven to be exact. Even The Book Thief only had about six themes and that book had around five-hundred pages. To me, the most compelling theme throughout this novel is guilt. Guilt took such a hold in not only Hester's life, but in the Puritan population's as a whole. The guilt of the entire populations is not so obvious as Hester's but it still has a leeching affect. I believe that Guilt has caused the townspeople to become introvertedly afraid people. They know that they commit sins so it causes them to be haunted and daily punish themselves for both repentance and a potential afterlife. The burden of their own sins has also caused them to lash out on those who commit "more severe" sins like Hester in order to make themselves appear more "Pure" or sinless. The government almost takes advantage of this to make sure that their congregation does not stand against what they want. The people of this town have their beliefs so far ingrained in their heads that even the protagonist Hester stays in a place where she feels miserable to repent and make up for her sins. This guilt is so severe that it is passed from generation to generation, seen when Pearl was secluded from other children from her mothers offense.

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  5. From all of the themes that are in The Scarlet Letter, I found hypocrisy one of the main themes. Hester committed adultery, the Puritans in the town were watching and judging her. Like if they have never committed a sin in their life. Hester even owns up to her sin by making the letter so beautiful and making it so that everyone can see it. The Puritans in the town are using her as an example to their children of what not to do and how not to live, yet they are not perfect either. In a biblical sense, the only person who should be "throwing stones" is he who has not committed sin.

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  6. I thought Isolation was pretty interesting because Hester was isolated from society because of the Scarlet letter and was seen as an outsider because of the fact that she committed adultery. However, the book talks a lot about how she smiles a lot and she does not seem too sad about her punishment and I think it would be interesting to look at how isolating yourself from society (or being isolated by society) can actually make you happy instead of being completely depressing.

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  7. I thought Isolation was pretty interesting because Hester was isolated from society because of the Scarlet letter and was seen as an outsider because of the fact that she committed adultery. However, the book talks a lot about how she smiles a lot and she does not seem too sad about her punishment and I think it would be interesting to look at how isolating yourself from society (or being isolated by society) can actually make you happy instead of being completely depressing.

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  8. I am finding that the most basic theme in The Scarlet Letter sin and how it shouldn't be done. But the website gave a lot of insight into other themes that are also included. Guilt really stood out to me. We talked in class and reflected on how guilt can affect someone. I also found it interesting that the article touched on blame and how it goes along with guilt. A lot of what we are reading now in these chapters is blame on Hester, blame on Dimmsdale, blame on Chillingsworth, blame on Pearl. It is interesting that when people are blamed for something the guilt is different than if they realized their own sins and feel guilty on their own. A lot of times if no one knows what we have done we feel more guilty because we haven't confessed. Dimmsdale is having this guilt in him right now. Hester is guilty even though everyone knows her sin and is blaming Pearl as a scapegoat to make herself look better. These are just a few examples of how guilt and blame are a theme in The Scarlet Letter so far.

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  9. The Scarlet Letter has many themes and all of them are very interesting to me, so this was a really hard decision to make. Isolation stood out to me the most while reading the different kind of themes. I see Hester as a powerful woman who has gone through so much and no matter what she has gone through she is still alone with Pearl. Even though Hester is isolated from everyone somehow she still finds the courage to keep going through. In the Scarlet Letter not only is Hester isolated but so is Dimmesdale; in the reading it points out how he is respected by his community but still is without a single close friend. I also think that Roger Chillingworth is alone as well. He wasn't seen his wife for a very long time and he came back to see that she committed adultery and has no one to talk too. Not only are these 3 characters isolated, but lets not forget Pearl. Her mother was isolated and publicly ashamed along with her.
    Isolation is a very important theme in The Scarlet Letter especially if we look at each of their characteristics and how they change throughout the text.

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  10. This book is one that is hard to read for me, not because of the story, I love the story aspect, just because of how he writes the story. It's caused me to overlook a lot of these themes i feel because i'm having to try to understand just the story at this point. I can see however how all of these themes fit in though and where they are now that they have been brought into the light for me. I Interested in the theme of sin though. I looked up the puritan 10 commandments, and i found either the catholic ones, or this really odd sounding bunch which i doubt were the ones that they follow if they followed the ones directly out of the bible. In Exodus you can find the main foundation for the 10 Commandments.It's interesting for me to read about these people who follow god so strictly yet they murdered their own people, which is against the 6th commandment, if the person broke any of the other commandments. It makes me feel that these people are extremely hypocritical, which was another theme. I feel the issue with that is is that God wants his children to love each other. Yet these people cast each other out if they break a law, whether it be stealing or adultery. These people thought of themselves as the best in a way, yet i feel they over look the judgement and sins they do during their daily lives and directed their attention to someone who was caught doing a sin that they themselves have probably done during their lives as well.

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  11. Although The Scarlet Letter is based on one sin that was committed but I feel that the bigger theme of the book is Women and Femininity. Throughout the book it does show how Hester has to mentally and physically have to keep her cool. It shows the two sides of how women in general would treat a woman in this position, through hate or pity. Yes, she has done something wrong and is put on stand for everyone to see that she has done something wrong but this in a very slight way shows her power. She has the power to tell the entire town who her lover is and that her husband has returned but she doesn't, she is protected them because it seems as if they can't do it themselves. Women and Femininity are a huge theme I find in the book because she has all the challenges she has to deal with, although she partly caused it for herself but it takes two to tango, it shows how truly powerful she is to hold the futures of two men in her hands while she endures all the consequences.

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  12. Hypocrisy seems like the most dominant theme. You have a group of people who left there homeland BECAUSE people would ridicule them of there religion. Now they are hanging, stoning, and publicly embarrassing people who aren't following there religion now. Not to mention Mr. Dimmesdale being someone of holy standing committing adultery. I also believe that later on we will see more of the people in this town show more of the hypocrisy that's floating in the air.

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  13. I definitely think the supernatural aspect is the most compelling. I've always thought the supernatural was interesting. Maybe, because we can't see it. It's unknown. I think that was a smart move by Nathaniel Hawthorne, honestly. It was a good hook to keep the reader interested.

    I never thought about Pearl's strange personality being the product of an absence of social skills. I disagree though. I think that because Pearl was born out of sin, it is influencing her in some way, shape, or form. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne believed, the consequences of the sins of your ancestors can be passed on through generations.

    The fact that Hawthorne uses supernatural shows some irony. The Puritans weren't supposed to want to have anything do with witches, ghost, and all that. So, its interesting that the author would include that in the story.

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  14. The Scarlet Letter is filled with varied themes of different potencies. This article did a good job of highlighting them in a very brief fashion.

    The theme I found most notable, and one that is seen frequently throughout the Scarlet Letter in Hester Prynne, Reverend Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and so on, is that of Guilt and Blame. The characters have their varied reasons for guilt, with Hester and Dimmesdale sharing guilt for the act they both know to be in error, and Dimmesdale carrying additional guilt for his secrecy and hypocrisy. Roger Chillingworth blames Hester and Dimmesdale heavily, but also expresses some guilt for placing Hester in the situation that preceded her sin. In addition to this entrenchment in the text is the insightful statement that feeling guilt requires a consciousness of doing wrong. No one can make us feel guilt if we do not feel that we did some wrong.

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  15. After reading half of The Scarlet Letter, I found a lot of themes throughout the book. I agree with this article in all the themes present in this book. Some themes were more present than others, but all the themes mentioned in the article I found or remember seeing in The Scarlet Letter. The theme I found to be most notable, is Guilt. I think this is the main theme of the book. Hester has guilt for what she did, Dimmesdale has guilt for not being able to speak up, and Chillingsworth has guilt for not being able to figure out the person responsible for Hester's sin. Whether it is having guilt, or figuring out how to overcome guilt, the theme guilt is present in the majority of The Scarlet Letter.

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  16. The theme I think would be interesting to explore would be the supernatural one. I've been marking whenever mystical things happen and there are a lot of mystical happenings going on. Sometimes I can't figure out though whether those things actually happen or if it's just the overactive imagination of the guilty minds. But nonetheless, it's interesting to see how such a religious community has so much superstition embedded in the beliefs and daily interactions.

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  17. I really didn't think that there were so many themes but I was very, very wrong. The theme that spoke to me the most is definitely hypocrisy. I think in some way we all are living like Dimmesdale. Some of our lies are bigger than others, but if you say you aren't lying about something in your life, well you're a liar. We fake who we are on a daily basis.

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  18. The theme of Sin is a pretty important theme in this book. Along with all the other themes, it's pretty eye opening. But for some reason I kept going back to sin, almost every theme tied in well with sin. Adultery is a sin. Committing any kind of colonial crime is a sin. Even keeping secrets is a sin in this book. Standing up for what you think is right could be considered a sin to some, and yet this book happened. In The Scarlet Letter, a lot of sin is committed and not just by one person either. I find it quite interesting how the characters deal with the sins committed.

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  19. Though as readers we have not done intense digging into this book, from pre-reading and lessons to prepare for the reading of this book, I have gathered 3 major themes that keep coming up. Hypocrisy, supernatural, and the theme of sin.
    Of all these themes highlighted in this article and the novel itself, I most related to the theme of hypocrisy. I find it astonishing how shamed Hester is for her sin, only because it is brought into the light. It is hitting the theme of hypocrisy right on, due to the fact other women in the society are committing the same "crime", just in the shadows. I find it relatable to how women act towards each other. It's relatable to when one woman "sleeps around", and another does the same, but it is only wrong and shamed largely when it is brought into light.

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  20. There are way more themes than I thought there were in this book. I liked the free will and fate theme. I like to believe that we create our own fate in a sense. It opens my eyes more and gives me more of a sense of now the puritans felt not being able to feel the way I do. It must suck to live your life trying to abide by rules when you don't even know if it was worth it. I found that interesting.

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  21. I think the theme that I like and relate to the most is the one about women and femininity. I am a feminist myself, and for Hawthorne to also display himself in such a way, in that version of time, is completely unheard of and completely awesome. Seeing women highlighted as strong central characters is a refreshing view on classic literature. But in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, while a little weird, is doing everything by herself. She is providing for her daughter, and battling inner demons. However, she does remain strong. It is also kind of great that men are being shown in a different light. Perhaps a more, whiny light, that was also so uncommon for literature in that time. Overall, Hawthorne is a winner in my book, solely based off of his clear respect of women, and the belief that we can be, and in fact are, the same as men. Along with commenting on the way society treated women then, and little would he know, now.
    That theme is definitely the most interesting for me, because I can really agree with what he is trying to get at.

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  22. The theme which I found most compelling was in regards to Hawthorn’s take on femininity. For Hawthorne to present his stance on woman independence during such a repressed time period is very brave and special in literature. Seeing a women character as a strong protagonist is definitely a new and interesting take on other forms of classic literature. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is a perfect display of how our author goes about breaking down the walls of sexism. She is provides for her daughter, Pearl, while discovering her personal beliefs and takes on her struggles without support of a male presence. As Geneva said before me, “Hawthorne [has a] clear respect of women, and the belief that we can be, and in fact are, the same as men.” His presentation of Hester’s strength is by far the greatest reason that this book captures my attention.

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  23. The theme which I found most compelling was in regards to Hawthorn’s take on femininity. For Hawthorne to present his stance on woman independence during such a repressed time period is very brave and special in literature. Seeing a women character as a strong protagonist is definitely a new and interesting take on other forms of classic literature. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is a perfect display of how our author goes about breaking down the walls of sexism. She is provides for her daughter, Pearl, while discovering her personal beliefs and takes on her struggles without support of a male presence. As Geneva said before me, “Hawthorne [has a] clear respect of women, and the belief that we can be, and in fact are, the same as men.” His presentation of Hester’s strength is by far the greatest reason that this book captures my attention.

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  24. This blog post is truly not fair there are so many aspects and themes in The Scarlett Letter it's ridiculous.
    If I'm going to choose a specific theme for the novel I would say it's Women and Femininity. I mean, I feel like I am getting strong feminist-ic vibes on this book and empowering women and all that. Hester's opinion is very strong in the book and so far the men in this aren't helpful at all. Sure Chillingsworth seems somewhat helpful towards Dimmesdale but Dimmesdale is just...well, in my opinion he's annoying. Hester is literally the only character I can stand to listen to.
    Also, I've found that Pearl is also a big female character. The author goes on and on about how amazingly talented and literate this child is. She can speak her mind and stand up for herself when the other kids tease her. I think Women and Femininity is a good launching pad if you're trying to find a good solid theme for this book.

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  25. The theme of the book that stood out to me the most was isolation, because I can relate to that as being the 'black sheep' of the family or just being left out in general from my group of friends. Hawthorne's story with The Scarlet Letter I can easily relate to due to the isolation Hester and her daughter Pearl are getting from society.

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  26. I feel that the most compelling theme from the book would have to be sin. It's such a universal concept, but it really doesn't get explicitly explored very often. Also, the Scarlet Letter has a great setting for this theme, as it offers a different view of sin. To us, wrongdoing has levels of severity, but to the Puritans, sin is sin. Every bad deed should be punished equally. In this same vein, there's also the theme of forgiveness/redemption, which is going to be an interesting point throughout the book. Basically, I'm excited to see how Hawthorne is going to use sin to display the root processes of human nature in a setting I've never encountered.

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  27. I feel like the most compelling theme for the scarlet letter is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is carefully interlaced between every single sentence of this book. I find that it's in the conversations the characters have with each other and even their actions. One very big example of it is the fact that they are judging Hester Prynne when they, too, have obviously sinned before. No one is without sin. I don't think I can wrap my head around the subject of a perfect human being, because it just doesn't exist. In fact, them laughing and gossiping is something people should be putting a letter on their chest for. Every time I read that someone was staring at her and her sin, I started to wonder about how many sins they have committed themselves. It's almost a complete oxymoron…

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  28. I believe that the most compelling theme is sin, because that is where they start the basis of the book, they then take sin and put a twist on it showing multiple sides of it. At first everyone would notice that the book starts with a simple sin, but then realize that sin doesn't always have to be looked at as something extremely horrible but could instead look at what the person has become because of it. You could then explore how sin may be followed up with ones own redemption and be forgiven for what they have done.

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  29. Out of all of the themes presented by the novel, I found that Hypocrisy was the main one of focus in my opinion. I thought this because during the whole book everyone is pointing a finger at Hester when everyone else has their own sins and their own things they are guilty for. Such as Dimmesdale, trying to act higher than everyone else and putting on this persona of perfection when he is really Pearl's father. It seems like that is the theme of life as well. Every turn you take or corner you pass somebody is judging others for a sin that they have committed themselves.

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