by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak Chapter 49 Summary
- It's Nathaniel Hawthorne Month at school. Melinda feels sorry for Hawthorne. She feels bad that the class is tearing apart every line of The Scarlet Letter.
- Hairwoman says that to understand Hawthorne, you must understand his elaborate system of symbols.
- Melinda thinks this is a little silly, but she enjoys it too. It's cool to think of Hawthorne writing in a kind of code to get his point across, while also keeping things interesting.
- Hairwoman wants to know what "the house with bits of glass embedded in the walls" (49.7) symbolizes in Hawthorne's novel. Nobody answers.
- Hairwoman says that glass in the walls suggests a house where something dangerous is going on.
- Rachel, Melinda's ex-best friend, challenges Hairwoman. She argues that if Hawthorne wanted us to read his novels symbolically, he would have written a book called "Symbolism in My Books" (49.11). Otherwise, how can we know that Hawthorne meant us to interpret these symbols in a particular way?
- Hairwoman replies, "This is Hawthorne, one of the greatest American novelists! He didn't do anything by accident – he was a genius" (49.12).
- Rachel says that she actually likes the story, but she doesn't believe in reading it symbolically.
- Hairwoman says that symbolism in Hawthorne is like the multiplication tables in math. Once you understand, it all makes sense.
- She's really mad though – and she assigns an essay. Now everybody is mad at Rachel.
- See what happens when you say what you believe?
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