Arts Review: “The Scarlet Letter”

Our arts reviewer, Kim Talington applies her love of animals to her reviews by giving sweet “meows” to what she likes and menacing “growls” to what she doesn’t like. In her second review for us, she reaches back into literary history and gives her treatment to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter.

Kim Talington

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Being that I’m an avid reader, I try to read a great variety of genres. Fantasy, Romantic Comedies, Scifi, etc. Like most readers, it’s food for the mind. Unfortunately, most of today’s books are more like “junk food.” There’s something there, but with little to no “meat” (something to hook you in, to feed that desire of your literary side). Many books of this generation are what I like to call “cookie cut.” They may have different plots, characters, and events but overall it’s very predictable. And, of course, if the protagonist is male, he will save his female love interest. That’s why, avid readers like myself, enjoy the classics, like the –surprisingly advance for its time—piece, The Scarlet Letter. It’s a work that’s part of numerous English programs, and you’ve probably heard of it. If you’ve never picked it up, I suggest you read this overview written 164 years after the fact, then pick it up yourself.

 

Written by Nathaniel Hawthrone in 1850, The Scarlet Letter tells the story of Hester Prynne, a married woman in Puritan Boston who is having an affair. When the townspeople discover her sin, they force Hester Prynne to wear a scarlet A on her chest, symbolizing her adulterous act. Of course, the affair ends with the birth of an “illegitimate” child named Pearl.

On the surface, the story follows Hester Prynne atoning for her sins, and getting back into the “good graces” of Puritan society. However, when looked at on a deeper level, you find that The Scarlet Letter is really a forward thinking story where the main protagonist doesn’t look for forgiveness, but instead, embraces her “faults” and rises above it.

 

Meows:

 

Hester Prynne, herself, is a character who was truly ahead of her time. Despite being chastised by her town, she manages to be a better Christian than the rest of the Puritans. Not only does she accept the circumstance she’s in, but she allows it to empower her. She doesn’t let herself become a victim; she lets it make her stronger, even remaining loyal to Pearl’s father.

 

Pearl, who is the symbol of the sins of her mother and father, ends up becoming the most empowered person in the entire story –which I’d love to dive into more, but it would give away too much of who her father is which would ruin the entire book. However, what can be said is that Pearl, like her mother, rises up from what society makes of her and becomes stronger and more at peace then even the holy leaders of the Puritan town.

 

Growls:

 

The clear double standard of who is penalized for the crime of sin. Hester Prynne goes throughout most of the story as a terrible person for committing adultery. When Pearl’s father comes out, the townspeople let it go almost instantly and don’t even ask much of him. Then there is the lack of actual strong male characters within the book. Not even Pearl’s father was strong enough to out himself until the end of the book. On the surface, the book can be kind of hard to read, with its writing style (which isn’t just about the time period, but also about how Hawthorne chose to write it), so it will require a lot of reading between lines and more knowledge than the story gives you.

 

Overall:

 

The Scarlet Letter is an incredible story that breaks down traditional stereotypical gender rolls within a Puritan society. The protagonist is centuries ahead of her time, which is what makes the story so unique. This is a story that might require a couple of reads in order to truly appreciated but it is well worth it.

 

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Arts Review: “The Scarlet Letter”