Notes to Ch 16, A Forest Walk
The Scarlet Letter

die (or dye?).... sl16.html#g01
Ce0162p274 has "dye" instead of the first edition's "die"--the meaning is surely that of a color dye. Spelling was not so regular as it is today, and we have made no attempt to regularize spelling nor modernize it here. But be aware that if you spelled words this way today your teacher would mark it wrong.
the Apostle Eliot ...sl16.html#g02
The Rev. John Eliot was preaching to Native Americans in Dorchester, where he lived just outside Boston, and in Nonantum, in today's Newton, where in The Blithedale Romance he is referred to several times by Hawthorne. Hawthorne also wrote a children's story about Eliot in Grandfather's Chair. Hawthorne approved highly of his kind treatment of the Indians, and Eliot did write a Bible in their language even though none lived to read it later. Most of the "praying Indians" he converted were rounded up in 1676 during King Philip's War and died in camps on Deer Island, Boston.
imaged not amiss the moral wilderness ...sl16.html#g03
In other words, there was a similarity between the pagan wilderness, which was wild and without moral rules, and the life of isolation that Hester had been living, where she had to make up rules of her own, perhaps the same Christian ones as the old ones, but in any case her own, not those of someone else. Not only was Hester without a husband, but her child was without a father, and both seem to have escaped the close governance of church and school that Governor Bellingham and Reverend Wilson wished for them. Despite this similarity, Hester and Pearl and most Puritans would be superstitiously afraid of the forest.
scrofula ...sl16.html#g11
Scrofula is a tuberculosis of the lymph glands in the neck, causing a swelling there. Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by a micro-organism, but this was not known in 1850 and might have been generally thought to be hereditary both then and in 1649.
She wanted...a grief that should deeply touch her ...sl16.html#g11
"Wanted" meaning lacked. It seems that Hester is thinking this, not the narrator. It is saying that Pearl was too inhuman, and needed human sorrow to make her more real, and capable of understanding more of the meaning of life. In that sense, it is similar to the lack of love that Chillingworth exhibits, and that Dimmesdale is prone to. And it must make us think that Hester is thinking she needed love herself as well as that the scarlet letter's grief had made her more human and understanding of life's meaning, but that this was hard to communicate to Pearl as a parent, and, sadly, she might have to learn it for herself.
the Black Man ...sl16.html#g15
All this is described as a "story," or entertainment, rather than a true history. But Pearl seems to know it by heart, and thus it must have meant a great deal to her. The mark on the bosom that the Black Man is supposed to place there is only after the sinner has signed the book. In return for this Faustian bargain, the sinner gets some special powers and protection from the Devil. The mark on the bosom would also sound like a good solution to Pearl's mystery of why her mother wears the scarlet letter there, why she cannot, and why the pastor clutches his bosom so much (after all, Pearl noticed that he lived with and walked around with that black man Chillingworth). In the witchcraft trials in Danvers later in the century, one of the only pieces of evidence was the presence of such a mark (though the absence of it did not thereby acquit anyone, sad to say). The Black Man is supposed to conduct a Witch's Sabbath in the woods. See "Young Goodman Brown" for the famous example of that.
violets and wood-anemones and some scarlet columbines ...sl16.html#g34
These are not herbs but pretty flowers that Hawthorne liked to look for near rocks. Violets are purple, wood-anemones are pink-tinged, and columbines are red. The moss all around indicates age. This type of forest would very definitely seem old to Hawthorne, as by his day much of the woods of New England had been cut for firewood, railroad fuel, or sheep pastures. But at the time of the Puritans the woods were quite different. It was only in wet dells such as this that one would find as much underbrush. The trees were tall but more widely separated, since the Native Americans burned off the woods regularly, to help in hunting deer, and for growing corn and pumpkins in place of plowing. Ironically, it was only after the Puritans introduced disease and warfare to kill off the Indians that the woods grew back, more thickly. Today it is not possible to find such woods near Boston, though in general New England is more wooded today than ever. The brook might have existed too, but not by Hawthorne's day. Whatever it was saying has never been recorded.

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