Posted by Kathy Waller
For the past few weeks, on my personal blog, I’ve posted doodles I’ve done from prompts taken from 365 Days of Doodling by Carin Channing.
Doodle a pilgrimage you’d like to take.
In November, while in Salem, Massachusetts, for Writer Unboxed’s UnCon, I’ll make a pilgrimage to the House of the Seven Gables, which Nathaniel Hawthorne made famous in his novel of the same name.
Fortunately, it won’t look like my doodle. If I’d been sensible, I’d have chosen to travel to a two-dimensional setting, something flat, with no corners or gables. I’d have planned the drawing more carefully, too. I was so wrapped up in keeping the gables from running off the page, I forgot the house would need a roof.
To help with identification, I numbered the gables.
I haven’t read The House of the Seven Gables since college. Hawthorne’s books have never been my favorites and I don’t read them for pleasure.
One year I read The Scarlet Letter aloud to a class of junior English students. Normally I would have assigned it as outside reading, but I was almost certain–no, I was certain–these students wouldn’t read it at all. If I read to them, they would hear the story and I would be able to translate from Hawthorne-ese to modern English. I didn’t look forward to the task, but it had to be done.
That was the year of the surprise. For fifty-five minutes every weekday, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl occupied a desk at the front of the classroom, her eyes fixed on the text as I read. It seemed as if she had entered the world of Hester Prynne. Sometimes I felt as if she had become Hester.
After preaching all those sermons about the importance of literature, I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw in her face. The novel mattered. Hester Prynne, who never existed, mattered. With words, Hawthorne fashioned a bridge that spanned three centuries, and a young girl crossed to meet a woman she would never forget.
As we read, an old book took hold of a girl and wouldn’t let go. Somehow, reading it changed her. As I watched, it changed me, too.
That’s when The Scarlet Letter became one of my favorite books.