Firstly, if you haven’t read The Scarlet Letter- I have three words for you… SHAME ON YOU!
The novel is set in seventeenth-century Puritan Massachusetts. The plot centers around the constant battles that Hester Pyrnne faces after giving birth to her daughter Pearl (who was the result of an adulterous affair). Hawthorne’s novel is mainly concerned with the effects of the affair, rather than the affair itself. Hester’s public shaming is used to capture the disapproving views of New England society in the seventeenth century. The society surrounding Hester believed that there was no option to repent, she would bear the Scarlet letter upon her chest to signify her adulterous sin for the entirety of her life. The Scarlet letter deals with the power of womanhood, motherhood and loyalty.
Here are 5 (pretty great) reasons why you should read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel:
- It’s a relatively short – It’s a novel that you struggle to come to grips with at first, but once you have read it, you want to start all over again!
- It projects a timeless element effortlessly- The characters are relatable and sincere which allows a reader from any time period to identify with them.
- Hawthorne uses extensive description- Admittedly, this can create confusion on first reading but the story line is so captivating that the complicated sentence structure becomes irrelevant.
- It’s a kind of history lesson- Life during the seventeenth century in Massachusetts is the antithesis to any society today. Hawthorne’s personal views on Puritan society are threaded subtly throughout.
- The empowerment of women- Hester has the desire to determine her own identity, rather than to allow others to determine it for her. It is clear that the character believes that running away or removing the letter would be an acknowledgment of society’s power over her. Instead, Hester stays and wears The Scarlet Letter as a symbol of her own experiences and character. Her sin was a part of who she was; to pretend that it never happened would mean denying a part of herself.
Hester Pyrnne is my idol! What others may believe to be a shameful punishment, I see The Scarlet Letter upon Hester’s chest to represent bravery and determination. It is hard not to admire Hester’s independence and courage when she is faced with the judgmental Puritan society. At the end of the novel, Hester embraces her sin and the letter upon her chest instead of suppressing her past. Most importantly, Hawthorne takes the character on a remarkable journey, one which accentuates that we should be honest and true to ourselves regardless of the factors surrounding us.