Those Crazy Puritans! (A playful look at a classic)
Well, once again we find ourselves amongst those crazy seventeeth century Puritans in Nathaniel Hawthorne''s The Scarlet Letter . This time the deadly sin is adultery - those nasty witches of Arthur Miller''s The Crucible having yet to be disposed of.
Our characters are archetypal. The malefactress, Hester Prynne, having bitten the forbidden apple once in her pious life, makes clothes for the less fortunate; her partner in crime, Arthur Dimmesdale, shameful member of Hester''s settlement, always trying to be the best he can be - no he''s not in the army, he''s the town minister (naughty, naughty); Hester''s husband, who was thought to have been six feet under...the sea, swims up just in time to see his wife standing sinfully upon the scaffold and decides to go under the name of Roger Chillingsworth to save face; and last, but not least, we have Hester and Arthur''s bizarre lovechild, Pearl, who is so strange yet wonderful that she goes from being a child of sin to her parents saintly savior.
I give a hearty golf clap to Nathaniel Hawthorne for leaving the explicit details of Hester and Dimmesdale''s relationship up to the reader''s imagination - very puritanical. For those of you who thought it could have had a little more action and possibly a nude scene or two, go rent the movie - I hear you get a great butt shot of the minister (Gary Oldman).
Let us now take a look at the messages presented. Hester appears to play a modern Eve to Dimmesdale''s Adam - after all, he is the minister and must have been influenced by the inherent evil of women, right? Hester is punished accordingly, teaching us the consequences of adultery and lack of birth control. The good reverend is tormented by his sin and is relieved only by confessing under the eyes of God and his congregation - once again showing us the right thing to do in a sinful situation (perhaps this is why The Scarlet Letter is so widely read in high school).
So, all in all, The Scarlet Letter is a well written and emotionally moving novel. Hawthorne weaves the tale so well, we can actually imagine ourselves in that period of time - but that doesn''t mean we can''t have a little fun with it too.