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Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”

Letteratura Angloamericana I

A.A. 2010-11

known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even

startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was

enveloped. […]

Had there been a Papist among the crowd of Puritans, he might have seen in this beautiful woman, so picturesque in her

attire and mien, and with the infant at her bosom, an object to remind him of the image of Divine Maternity, which so

many illustrious painters have vied with one another to represent; something which should remind him, indeed, but only

by contrast, of that sacred image of sinless motherhood, whose infant was to redeem the world. Here, there was the

taint of deepest sin in the most sacred quality of human life, working such effect, that the world was only the darker for

this woman’s beauty, and the more lost for the infant that she had borne.

[Chapter V…] Her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck into the soil. […]Here, she said to herself had

been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her

daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost: more saint–like,

because the result of martyrdom.

Hester Prynne, therefore, did not flee. On the outskirts of the town, within the verge of the peninsula, but not in close

vicinity to any other habitation, there was a small thatched cottage. It had been built by an earlier settler, and abandoned,

because the soil about it was too sterile for cultivation, while its comparative remoteness put it out of the sphere of that

social activity which already marked the habits of the emigrants. It stood on the shore, looking across a basin of the sea at

the forest–covered hills, towards the west. A clump of scrubby trees, such as alone grew on the peninsula, did not so

much conceal the cottage from view, as seem to denote that here was some object which would fain have been, or at least

ought to be, concealed. In this little lonesome dwelling, with some slender means that she possessed, and by the licence of

the magistrates, who still kept an inquisitorial watch over her, Hester established herself, with her infant child.

[…] Hester sought not to acquire anything beyond a subsistence, of the plainest and most ascetic description, for herself,

and a simple abundance for her child. Her own dress was of the coarsest materials and the most sombre hue, with only

that one ornament—the scarlet letter—which it was her doom to wear. The child’s attire, on the other hand, was

distinguished by a fanciful, or, we may rather say, a fantastic ingenuity, which served, indeed, to heighten the airy charm

that early began to develop itself in the little girl, but which appeared to have also a deeper meaning. We may speak

further of it hereafter. Except for that small expenditure in the decoration of her infant, Hester bestowed all her

superfluous means in charity, on wretches less miserable than herself, and who not unfrequently insulted the hand that

fed them. Much of the time, which she might readily have applied to the better efforts of her art, she employed in making

coarse garments for the poor. It is probable that there was an idea of penance in this mode of occupation, and that she

offered up a real sacrifice of enjoyment in devoting so many hours to such rude handiwork. She had in her nature a rich,

voluptuous, Oriental characteristic—a taste for the gorgeously beautiful, which, save in the exquisite productions of

her needle, found nothing else, in all the possibilities of her life, to exercise itself upon. Women derive a pleasure,

incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle. To Hester Prynne it might have been a mode of

expressing, and therefore soothing, the passion of her life. Like all other joys, she rejected it as sin. This morbid meddling

of conscience with an immaterial matter betokened, it is to be feared, no genuine and steadfast penitence, but something

doubtful, something that might be deeply wrong beneath.

In this matter, Hester Prynne came to have a part to perform in the world.

[Chapter XIII…] None so self–devoted as Hester when pestilence stalked through the town. In all seasons of calamity,

indeed, whether general or of individuals, the outcast of society at once found her place. She came, not as a guest, but as a

rightful inmate, into the household that was darkened by trouble, as if its gloomy twilight were a medium in which she

was entitled to hold intercourse with her fellow–creature There glimmered the embroidered letter, with comfort in its

unearthly ray. Elsewhere the token of sin, it was the taper of the sick chamber. It had even thrown its gleam, in the

sufferer’s bard extremity, across the verge of time. It had shown him where to set his foot, while the light of earth was fast

becoming dim, and ere the light of futurity could reach him. In such emergencies Hester’s nature showed itself warm and

rich—a well–spring of human tenderness, unfailing to every real demand, and inexhaustible by the largest. Her breast,

with its badge of shame, was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one. She was self–ordained a Sister of

Prof. Elisabetta Marino 22 Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”

Letteratura Angloamericana I

A.A. 2010-11

Mercy, or, we may rather say, the world’s heavy hand had so ordained her, when neither the world nor she looked

forward to this result. The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her—so much power to

do, and power to sympathise—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said

that it meant Able, so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.

Arthur Dimmesdale e il suo tormento. L’incapacità di usare la PAROLA

[Chapter XI…] They deemed the young clergyman a miracle of holiness. They fancied him the mouth-piece of Heaven's

messages of wisdom, and rebuke, and love. In their eyes, the very ground on which he trod was sanctified. […]It is

inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him! It was his genuine impulse to adore the truth

[…] Then, what was he?--a substance?--or the dimmest of all shadows? He longed to speak out, from his own pulpit, at

the full height of his voice, and tell the people what he was. […]More than once, Mr. Dimmesdale had gone into the

pulpit, with a purpose never to come down its steps, until he should have spoken words like the above. More than once,

he had cleared his throat, and drawn in the long, deep, and tremulous breath, which, when sent forth again, would come

burdened with the black secret of his soul. More than once--nay, more than a hundred times--he had actually spoken!

Spoken! But how?

L’incontro tra Arthur e Hester nella foresta

[Chapter XVII] "O Arthur," cried she, "forgive me! In all things else, I have striven to be true! Truth was the one virtue

which I might have held fast, and did hold fast through all extremity; save when thy good,--thy life,--thy fame,--were

put in question! Then I consented to a deception. But a lie is never good, even though death threaten on the other side!

Dost thou not see what I would say? That old man!--the physician!--he whom they call Roger Chillingworth!--he was my


The minister looked at her, for an instant, with all that violence of passion, which--intermixed, in more shapes than one,

with his higher, purer, softer qualities--was, in fact, the portion of him which the Devil claimed, and through which

he sought to win the rest. Never was there a blacker or a fiercer frown, than Hester now encountered. For the brief

space that it lasted, it was a dark transfiguration. But his character had been so much enfeebled by suffering, that even

its lower energies were incapable of more than a temporary struggle. He sank down on the ground, and buried his

face in his hands.

[…] O Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame!--the indelicacy!--the horrible

ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, thou art

accountable for this! I cannot forgive thee!"

"Thou shalt forgive me!" cried Hester, flinging herself on the fallen leaves beside him. "Let God punish! Thou shalt


With sudden and desperate tenderness, she threw her arms around him, and pressed his head against her bosom; little

caring though his cheek rested on the scarlet letter. […]

"Wilt thou yet forgive me?" she repeated, over and over again. "Wilt thou not frown? Wilt thou forgive?"

"I do forgive you, Hester," replied the minister, at length, with a deep utterance out of an abyss of sadness, but no anger. "I

freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both! We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one

worse than even the polluted priest! That old man's revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold

blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!"

"Never, never!" whispered she. "What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said so to each other!

Hast thou forgotten it?"

[….] Arthur teme che Roger rveli il suo segreto

Prof. Elisabetta Marino 23 Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”

Letteratura Angloamericana I

A.A. 2010-11

"And I!--how am I to live longer, breathing the same air with this deadly enemy?" exclaimed Arthur Dimmesdale,

shrinking within himself, and pressing his hand nervously against his heart,--a gesture that had grown involuntary with

him. "Think for me, Hester! Thou art strong. Resolve for me!"

[…] "Heaven would show mercy," rejoined Hester, "hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it."

"Be thou strong for me!" answered he. "Advise me what to do."

"Is the world then so narrow?" exclaimed Hester Prynne, fixing her deep eyes on the minister's, and instinctively

exercising a magnetic power over a spirit so shattered and subdued, that it could hardly hold itself erect. "Doth the

universe lie within the compass of yonder town, which only a little time ago was but a leaf-strewn desert, as lonely as this

around us? […] There thou art free! So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou hast been most

wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy! Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest to hide thy

heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?"

"Yes, Hester; but only under the fallen leaves!" replied the minister, with a sad smile.

"Then there is the broad pathway of the sea!" continued Hester. "It brought thee hither. If thou so choose, it will bear

thee back again. In our native land, whether in some remote rural village or in vast London,--or, surely, in Germany, in

France, in pleasant Italy,--thou wouldst be beyond his power and knowledge! And what hast thou to do with all these

iron men, and their opinions? They have kept thy better part in bondage too long already!"

"It cannot be!" answered the minister, listening as if he were called upon to realize a dream. "I am powerless to go.

Wretched and sinful as I am” […] "Thou art crushed under this seven years' weight of misery," replied Hester, fervently

resolved to buoy him up with her own energy. "But thou shalt leave it all behind thee! […] Leave this wreck and ruin

here where it hath happened! Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Hast thou exhausted possibility in the

failure of this one trial? Not so! The future is yet full of trial and success. There is happiness to be enjoyed! There is

good to be done! Exchange this false life of thine for a true one.

[Chapter XVIII…] “Do I feel joy again?” cried he, wondering at himself. “Methought the germ of it was dead in me! Oh,

Hester, thou art my better angel! I seem to have flung myself—sick, sin-stained, and sorrow-blackened—down upon

these forest leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with new powers to glorify Him that hath been merciful!

This is already the better life! Why did we not find it sooner?”

“Let us not look back,” answered Hester Prynne. “The past is gone! Wherefore should we linger upon it now? See!

With this symbol I undo it all, and make it as if it had never been!”

La figura oscura e degenerata di Roger

[Chapter II…] There she beheld another countenance, of a man well stricken in years, a pale, thin, scholar–like visage,

with eyes dim and bleared by the lamp–light that had served them to pore over many ponderous books. Yet those same

bleared optics had a strange, penetrating power, when it was their owner’s purpose to read the human soul. This figure

of the study and the cloister, as Hester Prynne’s womanly fancy failed not to recall, was slightly deformed, with the left

shoulder a trifle higher than the right.

[Chapter IV…] “I know not Lethe nor Nepenthe,” remarked he; “but I have learned many new secrets in the

wilderness, and here is one of them—a recipe that an Indian taught me, in requital of some lessons of my own, that

were as old as Paracelsus.”

Roger e l’ingiustizia del suo matrimonio

[Chapter IV…] “Thou knowest,” said Hester—for, depressed as she was, she could not endure this last quiet stab at the

token of her shame—“thou knowest that I was frank with thee. I felt no love, nor feigned any.”

Prof. Elisabetta Marino 24 Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”

Letteratura Angloamericana I

A.A. 2010-11

“True,” replied he. “It was my folly! I have said it. But, up to that epoch of my life, I had lived in vain. The world had

been so cheerless! My heart was a habitation large enough for many guests, but lonely and chill, and without a household

fire. I longed to kindle one! It seemed not so wild a dream—old as I was, and sombre as I was, and misshapen as I was—

that the simple bliss, which is scattered far and wide, for all mankind to gather up, might yet be mine. And so, Hester, I

drew thee into my heart, into its innermost chamber, and sought to warm thee by the warmth which thy presence

made there!”

“I have greatly wronged thee,” murmured Hester.

“We have wronged each other,” answered he. “Mine was the first wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth into a false

and unnatural relation with my decay.”

Pearl, l’incarnazione della lettera scarlatta, Pearl, il SIMBOLO

[Chapter VII] But it was a remarkable attribute of this garb, and indeed, of the child’s whole appearance, that it

irresistibly and inevitably reminded the beholder of the token which Hester Prynne was doomed to wear upon her bosom.

It was the scarlet letter in another form: the scarlet letter endowed with life! The mother herself—as if the red

ignominy were so deeply scorched into her brain that all her conceptions assumed its form—had carefully wrought out the

similitude, lavishing many hours of morbid ingenuity to create an analogy between the object of her affection and the

emblem of her guilt and torture. But, in truth, Pearl was the one as well as the other;

[Chapter VIII] “I am mother’s child,” answered the scarlet vision, “and my name is Pearl!”

“Pearl?—Ruby, rather—or Coral!—or Red Rose, at the very least, judging from thy hue!”

[Chapter XIX] Dost thou know, Hester,” said Arthur Dimmesdale, with an unquiet smile, “that this dear child, tripping

about always at thy side, hath caused me many an alarm? Methought—oh, Hester, what a thought is that, and how

terrible to dread it!—that my own features were partly repeated in her face, and so strikingly that the world might

see them! But she is mostly thine!”

“No, no! Not mostly!” answered the mother, with a tender smile. “A little longer, and thou needest not to be afraid to trace

whose child she is. But how strangely beautiful she looks with those wild flowers in her hair! It is as if one of the fairies,

whom we left in dear old England, had decked her out to meet us.”

It was with a feeling which neither of them had ever before experienced, that they sat and watched Pearl’s slow advance.

In her was visible the tie that united them. She had been offered to the world, these seven past years, as the living

hieroglyphic, in which was revealed the secret they so darkly sought to hide—all written in this symbol—all plainly

manifest—had there been a prophet or magician skilled to read the character of flame!

Lo scioglimento finale

[Chapter XXIII] “Hester Prynne,” cried he, with a piercing earnestness, “in the name of Him, so terrible and so merciful,

who gives me grace, at this last moment, to do what—for my own heavy sin and miserable agony—I withheld myself

from doing seven years ago, come hither now, and twine thy strength about me! Thy strength, Hester; but let it be

guided by the will which God hath granted me! This wretched and wronged old man is opposing it with all his might!—

with all his own might, and the fiend’s! Come, Hester—come! Support me up yonder scaffold.”

The crowd was in a tumult. The men of rank and dignity, who stood more immediately around the clergyman, were so

taken by surprise, and so perplexed as to the purport of what they saw—unable to receive the explanation which most

readily presented itself, or to imagine any other—that they remained silent and inactive spectators of the judgement

which Providence seemed about to work. They beheld the minister, leaning on Hester’s shoulder, and supported by her

arm around him, approach the scaffold, and ascend its steps; while still the little hand of the sin–born child was clasped in

Prof. Elisabetta Marino 25




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I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher melody_gio di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura anglo-americana I e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Tor Vergata - Uniroma2 o del prof Marino Elisabetta.

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