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Hawthorne at Salem

Hawthorne - Literature

The Scarlet Letter

Indians in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Materials prepared by: 

Cathy Eaton, Department of English
New Hampshire Technical Institute, Concord, NH

Joseph R. Modugno, Department of English
North Shore Community College, Danvers, MA

 

A Gleam of Sunshine from chapter entitled "A Flood of Sunshine" in <I>The Scarlet Letter</I>
A Gleam of Sunshine from chapter entitled "A Flood of Sunshine" in The Scarlet Letter
 

The Scarlet Letter takes place fifteen or twenty years after the settlement of Boston when the wilderness inhabited by Indians encroaches upon the 'civilized' Puritan town. Hester Prynne, who has been imprisoned because she is pregnant and unmarried, is forced to stand before a derogatory crowd on the scaffold outside her jail as an example of one type of outcast or sinner who is typically punished by the Puritans for crimes. Although Indians do not play a major role in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne refers to them throughout the novel in their stereotypical role of outcast, heathen, healer, or romanticized dweller of the primordial forests.

Literature Related to Native Americans and The Scarlet Letter

Pouch with Tassels
Pouch with Tassels (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
 
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 become extinct.

    Full 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. 

    Full text 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.

    Full text 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." 

    Full text 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 laws. 

    Full text 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 Puritans. 

    Full text 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.

    Full text 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. 

    Full text 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.

    Full text 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.

    Full text 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.

    Full text 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 life. 

    Full text 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.

    Full text 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. 

    Full text 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. 

    Full text 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. 

    Full text 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. 

    Full text 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. 

    Full text 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. 

    Full text of chapter 24- "Conclusion"

Images Relating to The Scarlet Letter"

Images of Ministers' Gravestones 
Image of Other Gravestones
Other Related Images

Images of Ministers' Gravestones

Rev. Joseph Green Gravestone, Danvers (Carved by John Holiman)
Rev. Joseph Green Gravestone, Danvers (Carved by John Holiman)
Rev. Joseph Green came to Salem Village in 1697 to become its minister after Rev. Samuel Parris left. Rev. Green led the shaken community out of the shadow of the witchcraft delusion into the light of the 18th century.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Rev.John Hale Gravestone, 1700, Beverly, Massachusetts.
Rev.John Hale Gravestone, 1700, Beverly, Massachusetts.
In 1664 John Hale became minister of the church at "Bass River," which became the town of Beverly in 1667. He held this position for over thirty years. He supported the Salem witch hunt of 1692 until his second wife, Sarah (Noyes), was accused of witchcraft, at which time he changed his opinion. He is buried next to his wives in the Hale Family plot, not far from his house in Beverly, Massachusetts.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Michael Wigglesworth Slate Gravestone, 1705, Malden, Massachusetts.
Michael Wigglesworth Slate Gravestone, 1705, Malden, Massachusetts.
Michael Wigglesworth Gravestone, 1705, Malden, Massachusetts. 
Portrait, right border, of Rev. Jonathan Pierpont Gravestone, 1709, Wakefield, Massachusetts
Portrait, right border, of Rev. Jonathan Pierpont Gravestone, 1709, Wakefield, Massachusetts
This superbly executed portrait effigy of Rev. Jonathan Pierpont reading his prayer book was carved by the Charlestown stonecutter, Joseph Lamson, or his son Nathaniel. The stone is initialed "N.L." This is an exceptional example of early New England gravestone art.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Gravestone of Rev. Jonathan Pierpont, 1709, Wakefield, Massachusetts.
Gravestone of Rev. Jonathan Pierpont, 1709, Wakefield, Massachusetts.
The Pierpont gravestone illustrates superbly the folk art quality of early New England gravestones. The slate stone has two stylized portrait effigies of the minister and was carved by either Joseph or Nathaniel Lamson of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The epitaph reads: A Fruitful Christian, And a pastor who/ Did good to all and lov'd all good to do,/ A tender Husband and a parent Kind/ A Faithful Friend which who oh who can find/ A Preacher that a bright example gave/ Of Rules he preached the souls of Men to save./ A Pierpont all of this here leaves his dust/ And waits the Resurrection of the Just.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Rev. William Whitwell, 1781, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Rev. William Whitwell, 1781, Marblehead, Massachusetts
The portrait of Rev. Whitwell of Marblehead was carved by Daniel Hastings of Newton, Massachusetts.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Rev.Nathaniel Rogers, 1775, Ipswich, Massachusetts.  Carved by Daniel Hastings.
Rev.Nathaniel Rogers, 1775, Ipswich, Massachusetts. Carved by Daniel Hastings. 
This portrait of Rev. Nathaniel Rogers, 1775, in his formal wig and gown is one of the largest and most impressive in the old Ipswich burying ground. According to Dr. Stiles, Rogers was a man whose preaching was “Calvinistic, practical, and very solemn.” Local legend says that Nathaniel Hawthorne was a frequent visitor to the graveyard and used to enjoy counting the buttons on the Reverend's gown. Buttons were a status symbol in colonial times-- a statement of affluence and position. Not surprisingly, gravestone portraits of women and children are seldom shown with buttons. Hawthorne recorded the following in his journal after visiting the Ipswich Burying Ground: "...Entering the burial-ground,...we found a good many old monuments, and several covered with slabs of red freestone or slate, and with arms sculptured on the slab, or an inlaid circle of slate. On one slate gravestone, of the Rev. Nathl. Rogers, there was a portrait of that worthy, about a third of the size of life, carved in relief, with his cloak, band, and wig, in excellent preservation, all the buttons of his waistcoat being cut with great minuteness,--the minister's nose being on a level with his cheeks. It was an upright gravestone."  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Rev. Ebenezer Bridge, Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
Rev. Ebenezer Bridge, Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
Detail of the Rev. Ebenezer Bridge gravestone in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)

Images of Other Gravestones

Mary Corry, Wife of Giles Corry, 1684
Mary Corry, Wife of Giles Corry, 1684
The Simple gravestone of Mary Corry, first wife of Giles Corry (Corey), who was pressed to death in September 19, 1692. Corey's second wife, Martha, was hanged as a witch on Gallows Hill September 22.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
George Jacobs, 1692, Nurse Family Plot, Danvers, MA
George Jacobs, 1692, Nurse Family Plot, Danvers, MA
Replica 17th century stone for George Jacobs, Sr., placed in the Rebecca Nurse Family Plot in Danvers, Mass. in 1992. Jacobs was accused of wizardry and hanged on August 19th, 1692. The words he used in his defense: “Well burn me, or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ,” are carved on this stone, which marks his remains. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Gravestone of Elizabeth Parris, 1696, Wadsworth Cemetery, Danvers, Massachusetts.
Gravestone of Elizabeth Parris, 1696, Wadsworth Cemetery, Danvers, Massachusetts.
Slate gravestone of Elizabeth Parris, wife of Rev. Samuel Parris of Salem Village. It was in her house, the old parsonage, that Tituba the Barbados slave told stories of the occult to impressionable girls and set off the hysteria that swept the towns north of Boston. The epitaph, initialed “S.P.” reads: “Sleep precious Dust no Stranger now to Rest. / Thou hast thy longed wish in Abrahams Brest. / Farewell best Wife, choice Mother, Neighbor, Friend. / Weel wail the less for hopes of Thee i th End.” (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Slate Gravestone for Nathanael Mather, 1688, Charter Street Burial Ground, Salem.
Slate Gravestone for Nathanael Mather, 1688, Charter Street Burial Ground, Salem.
An Aged person / that had seen but / Nineteen Winters / in the World.Hawthorne, a frequent visitor to Salem's Charter Street burial ground, used the epitaph for Nathanael Mather, the son of Rev. Increase Mather,in his story Fanshawe. Historian Sidney Perley wrote the following about Mather: “Nathaniel Mather was son of Rev. Increase and Maria Mather of Boston, where he was born July 6, 1669. His father was president of Harvard College; and two of his brothers were Reverends Cotton and Samuel Mather. He entered Harvard at the age of twelve, and took his first degree at the age of sixteen, when he gave a Hebrew oration, so great a scholar had he become at that tender age. His acquaintance with general literature and science of those times was extraordinary; and he excelled in mathematics, classics and theology. He was a hard student and a good scholar, but too close application, probably without relaxation, produced ill health. At the age of fourteen, he dedicated himself to God. His dedication consisted of devotion to prayer for personal sanctity, and he deliberated so much and so seriously that had became morbid and melancholy. He had taken his second degree at college just before his death. He had contracted ill habits of posture of body, which, persisted in, produced effects which made him appear like an old man. He died in Salem Oct. 17, 1688, at the age of nineteen, and was buried in the Charter Street burying ground, where his gravestone still stands. It is said that his brother Cotton wrote the epitaph upon it….“ (Sidney Perley, The History of Salem, Massachusetts, Vol. 3, pp. 231-32.)  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Slate Gravestone for Dr. John Swinnerton, 1690, Charter Street Burying Ground, Salem.
Slate Gravestone for Dr. John Swinnerton, 1690, Charter Street Burying Ground, Salem.
John Swinnerton's gravestone in the Charter Street Burying Ground, Salem, is directly behind the "Grimshawe House," which was the family home of Sophia Peabody. In his unfinished story "Grimshawe," Hawthorne has Dr. Grimshawe's grave situated beside Swinnerton's, which is a row away from the grave of Nathaniel Mather, whose tombstone provided the epitaph for Fanshawe.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Detail of the Timothy Cutler Gravestone, 1694, Charlestown, Massachusetts
Detail of the Timothy Cutler Gravestone, 1694, Charlestown, Massachusetts 
Mortality symbols, such as hourglasses, coffins, and death imps are seen on early Boston-area gravestones. This stone was probably carved by Joseph Lamson. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Detail of the Zechariah Long Gravestone, 1688, Charlestown, Massachusetts
Detail of the Zechariah Long Gravestone, 1688, Charlestown, Massachusetts
The imps of Death attack the Death's Head on the Zechariah Long Gravestone, 1688.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Detail of the Polly Harris Gravestone, 1787, Charlestown, Massachusetts.
Detail of the Polly Harris Gravestone, 1787, Charlestown, Massachusetts.
 (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Joseph Tapping Gravestone, 1678.
Joseph Tapping Gravestone, 1678.
Joseph Tapping Slate Gravestone, 1678, King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston, Massachusetts. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Detail of the Joseph Tapping Gravestone, 1678, King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston.
Detail of the Joseph Tapping Gravestone, 1678, King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston.
Detail of the Joseph Tapping Stone, 1678, Boston. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Detail of the Susanna Jayne Gravestone,Slate, 1776, Burial Hill, Marblehead.
Detail of the Susanna Jayne Gravestone,Slate, 1776, Burial Hill, Marblehead.
Detail of the Susanna Jayne Gravestone,1776, Burial Hill, Marblehead, Massachusetts. Carved by Boston stonecutter Henry Christian Geyer. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Elizabeth Pain Gravestone, 1704.
Elizabeth Pain Gravestone, 1704.
The Elizabeth Pain gravestone, King's Chapel, Boston. Local tradition holds that Elizabeth Pain was the prototype for Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Gedney Coat of Arms, King's Chapel, Boston
Gedney Coat of Arms, King's Chapel, Boston
A Coat of Arms was often used on the gravestones and monuments of prominent people before the Revolution. It was a source of pride for those who had the social ranking to possess one. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Coat of Arms, The Granary Burial Ground, Boston, Massachusetts.
Coat of Arms, The Granary Burial Ground, Boston, Massachusetts.
Family crests, such as this finely carved coat of arms, were a proud possession of some English settlers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They are often found embellishing tombs and gravestones and served as important station-in-life symbols. As the 18th century progressed they became less popular and were not used in public after the Revolution.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Capt. Richard More, 1692, Charter St.
Capt. Richard More, 1692, Charter St.
Gravestone for a "Mayflower Pilgrim" in Charter Street Burial Ground, Salem. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Phinehas Pratt Gravestone, 1680, Charlestown, MA. Slate.
Phinehas Pratt Gravestone, 1680, Charlestown, MA. Slate. 
Gravestone for Phinehas Pratt, 1680, Charlestown, Massachusetts. The Epitaph states that Pratt was one of the first English inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Josaih Peele 1784 Charter St. (L. Maxey)
Josaih Peele 1784 Charter St. (L. Maxey)
Josaih Peele Gravestone, 1784, Charter Street  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
\"Caesar the Ethiopian\" 1780.
"Caesar the Ethiopian" 1780.
This well-known gravestone in North Attleboro, Massachusetts is for a slave named "Caesar." The epitaph reads: "Here lies the best of slaves, now turning into dust; / Caesar, the Ethiopian, craves a place among the just. / His faithful soul has fled to realms of heavenly light, / And by the blood that Jesus shed, is changed from black to white."  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Child's Gravestone,Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Child's Gravestone,Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Face from a Child's Gravestone in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Gravestone of Capt. Thomas Lake, 1676, Copp's Hill Burial Ground, Boston.
Gravestone of Capt. Thomas Lake, 1676, Copp's Hill Burial Ground, Boston.
Capt. Thomas Lake, who was "perfidiously slain by ye Indians at Kennibeck, August ye 14, 1676."  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Sarah McKean and Child, 1776, Ipswich, MA
Sarah McKean and Child, 1776, Ipswich, MA
Here is a portrait of Mrs. Sarah McKean of Ipswich and the child she lost along with her own life. The inscription below the image tells the reader that the two are buried together. These are words found frequently on old gravestones.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Gravestone for Mary Harvey and Child, 1785, Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Gravestone for Mary Harvey and Child, 1785, Deerfield, Massachusetts.
In Memory of Mary the Wife of Simeon Harvey, Who Departed this Life December 20th 1785 In 39th year of Her age. On her left Arm lieth the Infant Which was still born.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Gravestone of Lt. William Hescy, Wakefield, MA, 1689.
Gravestone of Lt. William Hescy, Wakefield, MA, 1689.
The Hescy stone is a classic early Boston gravestone, made by the anonymous Boston-area carver known as "The Old Stone Cutter of Boston." The grapes and vines are symbolic of the "True Vine" of the New Testament and the wine of Holy Communion. Puritan poet Edward Taylor wrote: "Implant me as a branch in God's true vine / And then my grape will yield thy Cup rich wine." The vine theme was used on many early New England gravestones.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)

Other Related Images

King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston
King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston
The Elizabeth Pain gravestone is located in King's Chapel, Boston. Local tradition holds that Elizabeth Pain was the prototype for Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston
King's Chapel Burial Ground, Boston
The Elizabeth Pain gravestone is located in King's Chapel, Boston. Local tradition holds that Elizabeth Pain was the prototype for Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.  (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
Pine Tree Shilling
Pine Tree Shilling 
Pine Tree Shilling from Sidney Perley's The History of Salem (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Early Seal of Massachusetts Bay Colony
Early Seal of Massachusetts Bay Colony
Seal of Massachusetts Bay Colony, in use 1629-1684. This silver seal was first used by Gov. John Endecott. The Indian's words, "Come over and help us," express the early missionary purpose behind English colonization.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
\"Stocks\"
"Stocks"
An illustration of stocks from Sidney Perley's The History of Salem Massachusetts, 1924. Stocks were in use in Salem from the settlement's earliest days. They were located outside in the most conspicuous places. The use of stocks for public punishment ended in Salem in or before 1805.  
An illustration of a pillory from Sidney Perley's <I>The History of Salem Massachusetts</I>, 1924. Salem's pillory was set up in 1642.
An illustration of a pillory from Sidney Perley's The History of Salem Massachusetts, 1924. Salem's pillory was set up in 1642.
 (special thanks to Salem Public Library.)
\"Whipping Post,\" Salem
"Whipping Post," Salem
An illustration of a whipping post from Sidney Perley's The History of Salem Massachusetts, 1924. The whipping post in Salem was set up in 1657. The constable was paid two shillings and six pence for each person he whipped. In November of 1667, constables were released from whipping, and the town agreed to hired a whipper.  
John Winthrop (1588-1649), Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1630-1649, engraving
John Winthrop (1588-1649), Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1630-1649, engraving
On June 12, 1630, John Winthrop, on board the flagship Arbella, landed at Naumkeag (Salem) and replaced John Endecott as governor. Soon after, Winthrop and his fleet of ships and Puritan colonists went on to "Mystic River" (Charlestown) and then to the Shawmut Peninsula (Boston). With the coming of Winthrop and the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony, the "Puritan Experiment" in New England began. Rapid settlement occurred between 1630 and 1642, when approximately 21,000 English immigrants arrived in New England. The Puritan emigrants and their descendants set out to create a society based on Scripture, and as John Winthrop declared, one that should be a "Model of Christian Charity," "a city upon a hill." From vol. 1 , S. Perley's The History of Salem Massachusetts, 1924, p. 188  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Witches with their Familiar Flying on Broomsticks.
Witches with their Familiar Flying on Broomsticks.
In the British Islands, it was believed that the Devil gave his witches a faithful demonic creature, often in the shape of a small animal (a black cat, dog, or toad, for example) that would advise the witch and assist in her evil doings. Also known as "imps" or "familiar spirits," these malicious creatures were different from the Devil himself, who often took the shape of a beast or a human, in European and early American traditions of witchcraft. It was thought that the witch's familiar would suck her blood for nourishment.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Shem Drowne’s Indian warrior weathervane that stood on top of the Province House in Boston
Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Shem Drowne’s Indian warrior weathervane that stood on top of the Province House in Boston 
Shem Drowne was a renowned weather vane-maker of the mid 1700s. The illustration was for "Howe's Masquerade" in In Colonial Days published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1906 (2) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
The Squaw Sachem's Mark.
The Squaw Sachem's Mark.
Detail of an early document showing the bow and arrow that was the Squaw Sachem's Mark. The words identifying the "signature" were written by a clerk.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Pouch with Tassels
Pouch with Tassels
Deerskin Pouch with Fur, Porcupine Quills, and Metal Chimes. Pawtucket Indian Artist. 17th Century.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Black Stone Bear
Black Stone Bear
Black Stone Bear. Igneous Rock. Pawtucket Indian Artist. Ca. 16th Century (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Penobscot Indian Knife
Penobscot Indian Knife
A Carved Crook Knife. Mid-Nineteenth Century Penobscot Indian. (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Penobscot Indian Powder Horn
Late-Eighteenth, Early-Nineteenth Century
Penobscot Indian Powder Horn Late-Eighteenth, Early-Nineteenth Century
 (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
Tray by unidentified Huron artist c. 1840 made of birchbark, moosehair, pigment, and thread
Tray by unidentified Huron artist c. 1840 made of birchbark, moosehair, pigment, and thread
"The design combines Native American beliefs about living harmoniously in the natural environment with an idealized view of nature in European art of the period. Beginning in the seventeenth century, Native American women learned European embroidery techniques at covent schools in Canada established to convert and educate them." (from exhibit notes, "Painted with Thread," Peabody Essex Museum, August 2001) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
An Indian Dance
An Indian Dance
From The Histoire of Travaile into Virginia Britannia by William Strachey, Gent. 
Reproduction of an Old Style Algonquin Indian Birchbark Canoe. Sixteen Feet Long.  Made by Henri Vaillancourt, Greenville, NH.
Reproduction of an Old Style Algonquin Indian Birchbark Canoe. Sixteen Feet Long. Made by Henri Vaillancourt, Greenville, NH.
This traditional Algonquin birchbark canoe is based on a centuries-old design and is an example of a type of canoe used by New England Indians.  (courtesy of Henri Vaillancourt.)
Abenaki Style Birch Bark Canoe.
Abenaki Style Birch Bark Canoe. 
This Abenaki style birch bark canoe was made by Henri Vaillancourt, Greenville, NH, using traditonal materials and methods. A similar example is in the Peabody Essex Museum collection.  (courtesy of Henri Vaillancourt.)
Indian Lands and Localities in Essex County Massachusetts
Indian Lands and Localities in Essex County Massachusetts 
Map of Essex County, Massachusetts from Sidney Perley's Indian Deeds of Essex County, 1912, showing Indian place names and tribal areas.  (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

Criticism Related to Indians in The Scarlet Letter

A Gleam of Sunshine from chapter entitled "A Flood of Sunshine" in <I>The Scarlet Letter</I>
A Gleam of Sunshine from chapter entitled "A Flood of Sunshine" in The Scarlet Letter
 
In The Scarlet Letter Indians are peripheral one- dimensional stereotyped characters that are not overtly connected with the central characters, the Puritans, or the plot. Instead, mentions of their presences connect to imagery that is related to the wilderness, to being outcasts of society, to reminders of Chillingworth's captivity with them and to knowledge of the herbal remedies/poisons he gained from them. Each main character has a link to Indians and the wilderness. Dimmesdale, after visiting the Indians, temporarily loses the trappings of his religious piety. Chillingworth, a former captive of Indians, darkens the herbal healing arts he has learned from them by using them for evil purposes, associated
with the Black Arts. Hester lives on the fringe of society and chooses to stop short of banishing herself to live amongst the Indians where she would not be harshly judged, as she constantly is by the Puritans. Pearl symbolizes the freedom and oneness with the wilderness that the Indians have -- neither being tainted by the Puritans.
Criticism Related to Indians
Excerpts from chapters from Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Claudia Durst Johnson (courtesy of Greenwood Press).

Explore Activities Related to Indians in The Scarlet Letter

1. This activity was created by Dr. Doug Rowlett from Houston Community College System, Southwest Campus, Stafford, TX.

 

In nineteenth-century Salem the frontier was a distant place only to be read about by most inhabitants, and interactions with living Native Americans were few and far removed. The occasional Native American visitor to Salem had become by Hawthorne's time a quaint relic, more curiosity than threat in most people's minds.

However, residents did read about them in the newspapers and in popular books and articles and were certainly aware of their place in the history of New England, and there were still a few people alive during Hawthorne's early years who could recount old tales from previous generations about "Indian depredations." While Hawthorne never wrote the kinds of Indian-centered tales that Fenimore Cooper did, a close examination of his stories and novels will show he did make more use of Native Americans than is at first apparent.

 

  • Margaret B. Moore's book The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne provides useful information about Hawthorne's treatment of Native Americans. Read the synopsis cited above and then examine The Scarlet Letter for examples of Hawthorne's treatment of Native Americans in the novel . Note that the forest and its natural inhabitants are portrayed at times as dark, mysterious, and surely allied with the forces of darkness and iniquity and at other times as noble, enduring, natural, and even innocent. Consider how Hawthorne's attitude toward Indians in The Scarlet Letter may have informed his thematic treatment of the duality presented by God's Law on the one hand (civilized, restrained, white, and Christian) and Nature's Law on the other (savage, passionate, dark, and pagan). 
     
  • Review Ellen Knight's article on the Squaw Satchem , the excerpt of John Winthrop's Journal for June 1630 , and review some of the original documents from the early Colonial period . What can you glean from these documents about the attitudes of early colonists toward the Native Americans they encountered? Now read Johnson's critical commentary on The Scarlet Letter and the excerpt from Colacurcio's The Province of Piety. Does Hawthorne's attitude toward Native Americans in The Scarlet Letter seem to agree with or to be at odds with the early colonists' perceptions of them? Is he mainly sympathetic or antipathetic toward them? 
    Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Shem Drowne’s Indian warrior weathervane that stood on top of the Province House in Boston
    Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Shem Drowne’s Indian warrior weathervane that stood on top of the Province House in Boston (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
     
  • Jarold Ramsey in Redefining American Literary History explores ". . . why, after four centuries of contact, America's first traditional literatures have had so little influence on our literary heritage." While his article deals mainly with Thoreau, explore the Hawthorne In Salem Web Site to find materials pertaining to Hawthorne to either support or refute his thesis that ". . . literary imaging of native life, of which there has been so much, must not be confused with literary assimilation of native imaginative traditions, of which there has been too little."