22 October 2007

The scarlet letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

UPDATE - SEPTEMBER 2008. So this is a bit late, but I guess I stepped over the copyright line. So I took down the photo I had here.



I have no idea who this woman is, but she came up as the #7 choice when I searched "scarlet letter" in Google under images. Surely, when Hawthorne wrote his novel on the state of Puritan America, he didn't quite have this in mind!

Well, I needed a break from incense (for those who don't know, I'm reading Middlesex for Book Club), so I thought I would get a little adultery in. And where better to go for adultery - well some would argue the hot neighbor next door would be a better place - but then to the originator of the theme in American literature.

The scarlet letter will be very familiar to anyone who grew up in the Northeast US, as it was a compulsory English class read. To us Canadians however, Margaret Atwood and Farley Mowat got in the way of our dose of Hawthorne. I would like to think for the better.

There is no doubt that the novel has stood the test of time. Moreover, it checks two boxes on my ever-evolving checklist of elements in a good novel: its setting is specific, and its themes are timely. Set in Puritan New England, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, whose dress is emblazoned with an A for her sinful act of Adultery; the plot is not too complex. From the get go, you are not suppose to know that the minister is actually the father of her "devil-child" Pearl. However, the 20th century has prepared me well for such anemic literary mysteries - sorry if I ruined it for you. Throw in some Salem witches, various diatribes on sin, and a pinch of pontification on the nature of evil, and you have yourself the makings of an American classic, ready to be analyzed to death by 10th graders all across America.

I will make one note on the fact that the "prologue" to the book - entitled the Custom House - is actually about 15% of the novel. Although this is actually an intelligent literary device, as it helps to frame the novel in a historical context, I ask myself if Hawthorne's work would even be given 5 minutes of a publisher's time with such an unorthodox beginning.

Why you should read this: It was assigned in Mrs. Mullins 5th period English class.

Why you shouldn't read this: You have no reason to, as you are not in Mrs. Mullins 5th period English class.

the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. . . . It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!

3 comments:

Alicia said...

Um...incense? Try incest!

Eva said...

I hereby demand that you remove the image that you have stolen and inlined from my web page. This was an extremely disrespectful action, both to myself (the photographer and copyright holder) and to my friend (the model).

Eva said...

Alrighty. I gave you two days to fix it. I'm redirecting the image. I would strongly suggest that you link to the web page for this picture instead of inlining it.

http://www.digitalchangeling.com/pictures/halloween2006/AbbyAsScarletLetter.html