A Room of One’s Own, circa 1629

Among many impressive sights in Salem, one was this, at Pioneer Village, of a very small cottage replicating those built in 1629. I imagine that this is the sort of cottage that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne moves into, “abandoned by a discouraged settler,” after Pearl’s birth. When I think “cottage,” I think of little English cottages with diamond pane windows and a rose trellis. Hester’s cottage was no doubt a rude shack, like this, no bigger than my writer’s cabin at home. Its windows would have been small, with wooden shutters that latched, and no glass. The hearth would have been its central feature. The inhabitants probably slept sitting up (to avoid choking on smoke) on thin mattresses. I like to imagine that Hester had a bedstead. And now Hawthorne has me imagining her a real person, and not fiction. Good work!

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2 thoughts on “A Room of One’s Own, circa 1629

  1. It has been years since I read the Scarlet Letter in high school, but it seems to me that little Pearl had a cradle because I vaguely remember her reaching and grasping Hester’s A that she wore around her neck, as Hester bent over the cradle to pick her up.

    1. Yes — “One day, as her mother stooped over the cradle, the infant’s eyes had been caught by the glimmering of the gold embroidery about the letter; and, putting up her little hand, she grasped at it, smiling, not doubtfully, but with a decided gleam that gave her face the look of a much older child.” You have a very good memory for images!

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