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Mar 14th 2018

Now Is the Right Time to Read "The Scarlet Letter"

Consider yourself lucky if you're being asked to write an essay on "The Scarlet Letter". Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel is an American classic, but the Me Too movement makes it more relevant than ever. Some literary critics could point out that this watershed movement shed a different light on Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister of Hester's church.

The novel, first published in 1850, examine the guilt and sin in puritanical Massachusetts. Hester must be punished by wearing a cloth embroidered with "A". Anyone unfamiliar with the story thinks she's a villain, but she turns out to be a courageous, selfless woman. She's protecting the identity (and reputation) of the father of her child. Hawthorne may have penned this story in black and white, but it turned gray as the decades went by. As a matter of fact, "The Scarlet Letter" could be perceived differently in this modern, if not morally ambiguous, time.

Consider "Easy A", Will Gluck's teen comedy that propelled Emma Stone into stardom. She was depicted as the high-school Hester Prynne, and she wore the cloth (embroidered with "A") with such pride in a later scene. That the moviegoers expected her to be vindicated didn't come as a surprise. If Hawthorne was around, he might have reservations about Bert V. Royal's screenplay, which seemed seamless for the most part of the movie. Stone's Olive, a clean-cut teen, didn't intend to turn her life upside down (via social media). And cynical viewers would point out that no one really cares about anyone (or anything for that matter). But let's go back to the main argument.

You can ace your assignment on "The Scarlet Letter" if you can link it to the Me Too movement.

5 Arguments to Choose From

Did Hawthorne see a pattern of abuse? If the Me Too movement will be included in the mix, then Hester is a willing victim. The minister (Dimmesdale), on the other hand, can represent a malaise that has been unchecked for some time. It won't be a remote possibility, as America was a relatively new nation. In other words, the new citizens struggled to make it on their own. You're veering off the argument, though. It's a fact that there are limited options for womenfolk back then. (Jane Austen's works could provide a good support.) It's an irony that there has been little change between then and now. Other reasons could be the immense power that the Church yield during yesteryear and a collective mindset prevail during that time. Many students might have thought about it as well. Try something else.

Is it a good thing to make another adaptation of "The Scarlet Letter"? The answer is a resounding YES. If the Bard's plays could touch all kinds of viewers, then the same thing should be said of Hawthorne's masterpiece. Hollywood might not be receptive to such an idea, though. The superhero film genre may have changed the movie landscape, but there could be something else. As Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" have shown, the depiction of a woman as anything but nice could lure millions of readers (and moviegoers). Hawthorne may balk at such a representation, as his descriptions of Hester revealed a man who treated a woman in high regard. All women. It could be an intriguing concept for a play, though. Are you thinking of writing it?

"The Scarlet Letter" could be seen as an illustration of the place of women in society. And the Me Too movement is hoping to change it. In the case of the movie business, actresses wouldn't have a film career by the time they reach the age of 40. Those who are active during the studio era aren't fortunate to see the birth of small tube, and how producers of television shows are open for unconventional stories. In other words, Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" should find a younger audience on the small screen. Actresses would hope that they could work beyond forty. (Meryl Streep is an exception.) How about the women in the other sectors?

Is Hester Prynne a true heroine? This is the million-dollar question, which is asked again and again. After all, morals change with the passing of time. (What is scandalous back then could be acceptable by the current standards.) Your professor will be impressed if you can compare the values and attitudes of the 19th century to the present one. Capitalism changes everything, without a doubt. However, the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony could be the middle America of the present. You must back it up with references to other novels, though. Stick to American literature.

What is the moral lesson of the story? You might be dumbfounded by the question, but perspective varies from one person to another. This may be an exercise on literary criticism, but you shouldn't hold back on this one. After all, it's a story about what is right and wrong. Hawthorne may not have intended to have a gray area in between extremes, but it's hard to ignore it. Don't be afraid if your conclusion is different from what is seen initially. You could impress your professor.

What Transcendentalism Got to Do With It?

Keep in mind that "The Scarlet Letter" is a historical fiction. You must not forget that Hawthorne belongs to a group of artists who believe in the credo of Transcendentalism, which defined American literature of the 19th century. It have its origin to German Romanticism, prompting you to wonder if you have extra time for Immanuel Kant. Your responsibility as a student prompts you to set aside your weekend for reading a book (or two) by Kant. There's something else.

It may not be wise to expound on Transcendentalism, which may have been discussed countless times. A few paragraphs should be good enough, as you focus on the Me Too movement. Is Hester Prynne still a heroine? You might need to write an essay of three thousand words to justify it. An exhausting task, but a rewarding one. Your professor won't be disappointed at all.

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