Education Opinion

Reading Hawthorne

By Jim Randels — March 18, 2008 3 min read
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Today’s blog introduction is written by Jennifer Harden, an 11th grade student at McMain.

Reading The Scarlet Letter
Jennifer Harden

“Wow!” The first thought that came in my mind when I heard my classmate Ayrion Miller’s essay about her mother and inspired by The Scarlet Letter. I’ve done lots of things after reading a book: journals, book reports, outlines and analysis papers, all the typical things you would do in an English class. I have never really heard things so personal relating to our topics in any class since I started school. I always thought literature was supposed to be this boring stuff you read and never understand what the author is really trying to say.

But in my AP English III class taught by Students At the Center at McMain, we actually talk about the book in relation to real-life situations. It helps a whole lot. I think it makes no sense to “teach” things that I can’t connect with the real world. I thought that was the whole point of coming to school anyway, to prepare me for the REAL WORLD. I’m sure finding the spot where commas go in a sentence about Jan going to the store for grapes will one day come up. But where’s the girl named Keisha who is pregnant at 19 and has a baby daddy who wants nothing to do with them because of the “look” he’s trying so hard to achieve? Sounds a lot like Dimmesdale not owning up to Pearl.

Over the Christmas break, we were instructed to read The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In this piece, Aryion Miller, also a junior, wrote about how she related to The Scarlet Letter. It’s definitely not an ideal English essay, but it helps to be able to relate to real situations. After we heard the essay, it made me think about The Scarlet Letter in a different perspective, almost as if it was written in today’s time inadvertently. It definitely adds to the enjoyment of the book. Her essay helped me to connect it with things that really happen.

No Clue (Like Dimmesdale)
Ayrion Miller

“Who is that man Hester? I shiver at him! Dost thou know the man? I hate him, Hester!”
--Pearl speaking in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

On June 28, 1997, my sister, brother, and I were all asleep in our rooms. My dad had gone out to look for my mother, because she hadn’t come home the night before, so we were home alone. That morning we received a very disturbing call. The phone rang, and both my brother and sister jumped out of bed to get it. My brother got to it first, and they began to argue over the phone. My brother being the oldest and biggest won and answered the phone. The lady on the phone, whom I believe was a relative, had called to tell us that she was sorry about our mother.

During all this commotion with the phone call I was still in my room. My siblings had no idea what to do or think. They had just found out that their mother was dead. Soon, my aunts and uncles were over at our house. They attempted to calm things down. My dad had never returned home. My aunt picked me up and carried me down the street to her house. I didn’t know why though. In fact I had no idea about what was going on around me.

Later that day, my dad finally came home. He gathered my sister, brother, and me all in the den to talk. Even at six years old, I could tell that what he was about to say was hurting him. He told us that my mother had been shot and killed. I didn’t know then and I still don’t know why someone would do such a thing to my mother. To tell the truth, I never even asked. I couldn’t ever bear to bring the topic up. Especially with my dad, because I didn’t know how he would react.

Well, I still didn’t understand what was going on. I mean, I was only six at the time, and I had never experienced death before. My dad tried to explain, but in the back of my head my mother was still alive. She had just gone away for awhile.

As I read The Scarlet Letter for my SAC English III class and considered situations in which characters didn’t understand situations they were in the middle of, I began to think of this incident. Just like Dimmesdale, I had no clue about what was going on around me. In The Scarlet Letter, Chillingsworth was trying to get revenge on Dimmesdale, and Dimmesdale had no idea. He was blind to the evilness surrounding him. For a long time, I was blind to the fact that when my mother was shot and killed, so was the normalness of my life.

The opinions expressed in Student Stories: A New Orleans Classroom Chronicle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.