Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Yesterday, I was talking to some students about The Scarlet Letter--we were talking about Point of View, and the difference between third person and first person--and I actually asked the students: "How do you think the book would have been different if Nathaniel Hawthorne had written it in the first person? From Scarlet's point of view?"

And then there was a pause and these students looked at me like I was crazy and then I suddenly heard what I had said.

"Uh, wait, I meant...uh, Hester. How would the book have been different if it had been written from Hester's point of view? Hester Prynne."

But by then I had lost them. By then I was the dumb substitute teacher who thought the heroine of The Scarlet Letter was actually named Scarlet.

(I was about to make a joke about how "that's when my cheeks went red, or, uh, scarlet," but the truth is I wasn't really embarrassed--I thought it was funny too.)

In my defense, it's been fifteen years since I've read The Scarlet Letter and I was teaching the book cold. When I started making fun of the fact that I thought her name was Scarlet, I won the kids over again--so in the end it was all good.


aimie said...

i think, in actuality, you were just demonstrating how pervasive her label becomes during the course of the novel. isn't she essentially just a scarlet A by novel's end? you were just preparing the kids for the harsh reality of social judgment by referring to her as scarlet. well done.

drc said...

I love it! YOu're the kind of substitute I always wanted, but never had the joy of meeting.

Wanna come be a sub at the University?

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. I actually just laughed out loud reading that blog.

The Scarlet Letter happens to be one of my favorite books of all the time by the way. Totally worth picking up. (You'll see if in a WHOLE new way... I was so naive in High School).



Erik said...

aims, i like thinking of it that way--"I was demonstrating how pervasive her label becomes during the course of the novel"--! Hopefully I'll have to teach The Scarlet Letter again someday, so I can use that exact quote. I love it. Now I feel smart again.

Erik said...

DRC, ahhhh, thanks! (Is there even such a thing as "substitute teachers" at the college level???)

Erik said...

Michal, I've been wanting to read it again ever since I had to teach it. Actually, there are several books I want to read again that I haven't read since high school. I should use all of my downtime when I'm subbing to catch up on old great books.

smooch back atcha.

Anonymous said...

The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorites, too, but why oh why remind us of that blasphemous Demi Moore film? You couldn't maybe have found a photo from the Lillian Gish version?

Erik said...

Doug, I used the Demi Moore photo for purely comedic reasons. I think it's a funny photo.

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud, too, when I read this. I also thought it was a very appropriate "slip," as Aimie explains. It's definitely time for me to re-read this book.