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VOLLEYING 2:
STUDENT WORK (10): "THE SCARLETTER"

I see F as in the bottom 1-3 students in the class.  She was an inconsistent poster, an inconsistent class goer, and rarely participated in class.  Though showing occasional positive flashes in her posts, she wrote mainly very short posts and mainly in the level 1 "agreeing" mode that dead-ends conversation.  E -- very sharp and very idiosyncratic -- was a bit of a mystery.  Early on in the course he didn't post at all for a while.  In class, though, he was continually very vocal, indeed, outrageously vocal at times, taking odd, unique, or off-the-wall positions in an uninhibited comic mode that made him very popular with the others.  He was Mr. Community.  He received the highest number of votes when I asked the class to pick their top five favorite group members, though that was no doubt because of his personality not his posting -- which was not all that good.  I decided to give F the responsibility of serving in this paired situation, a situation of greater responsibility than she ever had before, to see how she would respond.  In a way F and E are a bit of an odd couple.

Serve: Student F --  "The SCARletter"

The scarlet A is a symbol of unwarranted shame in which Hester appears totally veiled behind it.  The A intensifies to be larger than Hester, representing the town's view of her obvious sin.  No human being is envisioned behind the scarlet letter, rather the town only sees a sinner.  The A represents to Hester a symbol of adultery and alienation.  She is a recluse from society; moreover the townspeople (women in particular) treat her dissimilarly by relentlessly scorning her in public.  The townspeople gradually adhere to accepting Hester, however they began to believe that the letter had supernatural powers.  The Puritan community regards the A as a mark of just punishment and initially the letter was feared by society.  I feel that the A represents more than the act Hester engaged in.  What do you think?  Do you believe the A transforms from a symbol of fear to that of steadfast courage and accepting actions?  I feel that it does, although I may be wrong.  As in some of the other books we have read thus far, Hester indeed is “that girl” from her time who stepped out and above her time.  She was bold and steadfast, facing up to the challenges of a life of shame.  She helped the townspeople, absorbing herself in good deeds.  Everyone makes mistakes in life that are sometimes life changing.  I think, just as life and people change and grow, so does the A.  What do you have to say?

Return: Student E

I must admit, I've been kind of puzzled by your serve, hence the delay.  But you sparked an idea in me: what the Scarlet Letter really symbolizes in Hester and in the town.  I can't say that the Scarlet "A" represents an opposite idea to the townspeople as it does to Hester.  Instead, I think Hester sees the A in more depth and range than the townspeople.  They merely see it as a branding of sin, a cross which Hester must bear for her transgression against God and society.  They also see it as physical proof that Hester is morally inferior.  They derive a Holier-than-thou-art sentiment towards Hester whenever they see her Scarlet Letter.  In class we discussed Hester's--I guess you could almost call it--"pride" in wearing the A.  She stitched it herself, and made it bright and ornate, so that it would stand out.  She also chose to stay in the community.  To her, the Scarlet Letter is not merely a mark of sin, but a symbol of defiance.  She stoically wears the Scarlet Letter, and defies the society which attempted to break her.  Of course, Hester is not that simple, and her ambivalence towards the Letter also includes a sense of shame in her sin.  But unlike the townspeople, she finds a second meaning in the Scarlet "A".   I'm not sure if this is what you were getting at.  Anyway, what else do you make of the Letter?  Do you agree with my theory that the townspeople saw it differently than Hester?  Or that Hester saw it in a similar light as the townspeople, except in a second light as well?  On a somewhat different note, what did you make of the scene with the meteor blazing an "A" into the sky?  We've gotta keep this thing going so just go with whatever you're comfortable with.

Fielding the Return: Student F

I do see where you are coming from about Hester as a steadfast lady of her time who stands bold and tall in the face of defiance.  Her elaborate embroidered "A" stands out; Hester is obviously not one of the crowd.  The "A" is a constant and piercing reminder to her and everyone who encounters her.  I do agree with you when you claim that Hester finds a second meaning in the "A" seperate from that of the townspeoples.  I feel that Hester did not see it in the same light, however as the townspeople.  I feel that she recognized what the "A" stood for to them and relaized what it meant in her time and society.  Hester also understood that the "A" did not mark her an evil person, and she found the good in herself and in others and did good to the community.  The scene with the meteor blazing an "A" into the sky to me was a sign that Dimmesdale himself interpreted.  I believe it to just have been a spectrum of the night, rather than a foreboding warning and confessional to the Reverand.  His sin was killing him inside and to him the "A" Reverend Dimmesdale assumes the meteor is a message from God specifically for him.  The light of the meteor bore a resemblance to the letter "A" to Reverend Dimmesdale because of his guilty conscience.  Subconsciously he wanted to punish himself for his sin since the townspeople are unable to do so without knowledge of it.  His guilty feelings contort a normal essence of creation into a sentence of sorts.  Dimmesdale believed the meteor resembled the letter "A" to further condemn him of his wrongdoing.  Two people can look at the exact same thing and see it completely differently.  The meteor, in relation to this theory of relativity, is that people see things from a different angle depending upon their point of view.  The meteor represents a certain conviction and punishment for Reverend Dimmesdale.  It is a silent confession for him by shedding light on his affair to the town.  This scene in the book is definitely the climax of the plot.  Basically, I feel that Dimmesdale revealed himself to the town in an inward attempt; i.e. he desperately wished and awaited the townspeople's awareness of his actions.  Ok what do you think?  Sorry I went on and on about the meteor but I think it is one of the most important turning points in the novel.

Volley1: Student E

So, about that meteor...I believe the townspeople took it to mean that Governor Winthrop, who had died that same night (while Dr. Chillingworth watched over him) had risen to heaven like an 'A'ngel.  “But did your reverence hear of the portent that was seen last night?—a great red letter in the sky—the letter A. which we interpret to stand for Angel.  For, as our good Governor Winthrop was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some notice thereof!” [end of Chapter 12]  First off, I find that pretty strange.  Not that the "good" people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony weren't reverent towards their Governor--I'm sure they believed that he would be up in heaven with the angels and all that jazz--but the Puritans seem to be, before all else, well, PURITANICAL.  So, why would they take the meteor to be a sign of something good as opposed to a sign of something evil which must be purified?  They already branded Hester Prynne with the Scarlet 'A'.  The meteor itself is a "great *red* letter in the sky".  Not white, not blue, RED.  Red like the scarlet Red on Hester's chest.  So why didn't the community take the meteor to be another sign of Hester's sin, and maybe even a reminder to condemn her for her adultery?  Is it because not enough of the townspeople saw it?  Chillingworth implies that many of them did.  Or was Chillingworth playing a mindgame with Dimmsdale?  The way the scene is worded, it seems like Chillingworth is somewhat aware of Dimmsdale's involvement, and is trying to torture him.  Your thoughts on this???

Volley2: Student F

Chillingworth is out to torture him; he is smarter and more manipulative than meets the eye although we are aware of his intelligence and aha! awareness early on.  Great point you bring up, however admittedly I am equally stumped.  I agree that they would acknowledge the presence of the meteor as symbolizing a (RED)sign of evil and impurity.  I don't know why they did not; maybe I have to agree that the torture/paranoia aspect Chillingworth (undeniably!...that evil creep)was after as reason alone; and that the townspeople were mainly uninformed.  Ahh, good question.


My reflection:

Interestingly, F does seem to do a better job here when asked to be the "leader" than in almost all her other posting situations except one or two.  Her serve begins with a focused summary of the plot aimed at a question about the evolving meaning of the Scarlet A itself.  I'm not sure why E is puzzled, for his return immediately develops F's thread with good detail.  He seems squarely on track and substantially enhances her point.  His "bridge" back to F at the end of the return, though, is a bit awkward.  He doesn't seem to hatch a comfortable transition, and his "We've gotta keep this thing going" feels kind of gauche -- a mark of either desperation or artificiality.  His options for F are to pretty much simply vote yes or no on the past point or to jump abruptly to a new point -- though a smooth transition to the "A" in the meteor scene could certainly have been made.

In the first half-dozen lines of her fielding, F is mainly in that "agreeing" mode that I would like to chase her out of, but then she goes "on and on" about the meteor scene in absolutely fine fashion.  Both here and in her serve F shows herself drawing on plot details and doing meaningful interpretation in ways not characteristic of her past work.  E's volley1 is curious.  Without a word about the interpretation of "one of the most important turning points" in the novel that F goes "on and on" about in her fielding, E gives a completely different perspective and, frankly, one that to me does not seem rooted in the text.  And one  that F in her volley2 can't get her mind around -- and probably rightly so. 

In this final posting sequence, the worm turns.  Now it is F who is let down by her posting mate.  She deserves a bit better interaction than she got here.  Hmm, and what to make of E?  He does not seem to "converse" well here: he has trouble understanding a clear point, his transitions are awkward, he takes no notice of his partner's point, he highlights his own point, and his perspective seems a bit too subjective.  Hmm.  I wonder if I'm seeing here a negative corollary to the behavior that made him so popular in class.  He liked and sought center stage.  He liked being "on," being looked at.  He would startle.  And it occurs to me that his forte was individual performance.  Maybe what I'm seeing here and what I might try to communicate to him indicates that he needs to work on improving interaction -- working with people rather than, if you will, working at them.