Book Review: Scarlet Letter

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while. I did my literary good deed for the month and finally completed one of the most well known classics and must reads of the ages.

The Scarlet Letter rose again in popularity with movies such as Easy A and it helps that such an important form of prose is still relevant. I did find it a difficult and somewhat boring read but tenacity kept me going.

I’ve never believed in “The Devil” which may be shocking or unheard of. I mean most Christians are brought up on good vs evil, heaven and hell and obviously there are consequences for all actions. However for me to believe that there was some fallen angel that would torture you in the after life was a stretch. Its easier for me to believe that evil is within us all, not that we are but we all have the capacity for it. Sin is what separates us humans from being truly divine and unfortunately it is something we can’t escape, something that is firmly attached to the notion of free will.

To sin is part of our humanness, which doesn’t make it right however it makes it natural. Sinful nature exists within us, and it is up to us to keep this nature in check and be the best people we can be. Sin, hitting rock bottom and being in a cloud of darkness can be used as a lesson in personal growth, to initiate change. Sometimes I feel its too easy to ask for forgiveness from some divine power, penance and thought needs to go into the atonement. But what is even more important, is the forgiveness of ourselves. Who ever created us gave us the choice to be good or sin, and with that came forgiveness of our actions. Therefore when we feel guilty, this is our souls telling us that we are are not rightly balanced and something needs to be done about it, before the burden is eased.

With so many complicated rules, I like to stick to the most basic of Christian teachings that Jesus summarized for his followers:

1) Love your God

2) Love your neighbor as you love yourself

This encompasses all manners of actions and if you keep thinking along these lines, that essentially is all you need to be a good person without retreating to Old Testament thinking about hell and damnation.

What is important to me is Hester’s embracing of her public humiliation. She could have fled at any time where she would have been able to remove the badge of disgrace and continue about her life. However that would have meant that she would have allowed society’s prejudice to affect her. Instead she sticks it out and determines her own identity, finds her own place in society rather than allowing herself to be exiled by the town.

She turns her public shame into an act of education and a representation of her own experiences and character. She doesn’t  hide away from her past and pretend that it never happened- that would mean denying a part of herself. She integrates her sin into her life, utilizing it as a tool to teach her daughter and to reconnect with her spirituality.



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