The scarlet letter a classic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is about a young married woman named Hester Prynne who moves to Boston from Europe by herself who commits adultery with reverend Arthur Dimmesdale while awaiting her husband who had not made it to Boston. Hester then gives birth to a little girl named Pearl. Eventually her husband shows up, but only hester knows who he is really. When he arrived he found out that his wife had a kid, and swears revenge on Pearl’s father. For seven years, Arthur is persecuted in secret by Hester’s husband, Roger. Later Arthur and Hester plan to go to Europe to live a better life, but Arthur dies, and Hester and Pearl leave to Europe and stay for awhile. Pearl gets married and Hester moves back to Boston, to live in the same cottage, resume doing charitable work, and wear the scarlet letter. She then dies alone and is buried next to Arthur under the same tombstone bearing only the letter A. The Scarlet Letter is historically significant because it can relate to today’s world and society, and shows the overwhelming traditions that have stayed the same throughout the years, such as the way women are treated and shamed, how affairs managed, and also how homelessness can relate to Hester personally.
In the novel, a younger woman, Hester Prynne, is a publicly shamed for committing adultery, concluding to a illegitimate child. She was punished for her crime and secrecy, she was condemned to wear a scarlet A on the chest of her clothing for the rest of her life in Boston. When standing before the crowd they would chant and yell hurtful words to her. Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter; and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along by her side! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them! (66)
Women today are shamed the same way Hester was back then. This type of shaming, also known as slut shaming is usually meant towards lower-status woman as a way to degrade them for the way they dress, or the frequency of their affairs.
In Nathaniel Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter Hester wore the letter A on her chest for the world to see. It was a way for the community to shame her for her adultery. Today, girls are wearing a new type of scarlet letter that is much more permanent and much harder to handle. Their scarlet letter is in the form of slut-shaming both on the Internet and in the school hallways.
People in both today’s society and Hesters society do the same things to people. Then and now, society hasn’t changed what we do to people only the name that we call it.
In addition to the way that women are shamed, the way that our civilization manages affairs, and adultery now is both the same and different. Adultery then was appeared to have been the people who committed such unholy acts were to wear a scarlet A upon their chest and be publicly shamed for their crimes. Today men and women who commit such unlawful acts are punished differently depending on where they are, in the U.S. it varies by state. For example, in Maryland the punishment is a fine of $10, while in Massachusetts it is punishable by three years jail time.
The punishment for adultery is somehow exactly the same because in our evolved civilization three years goes on your permanent record, which makes it very hard to get a job. People will think very poorly of them. In The Scarlet Letters time people would be given the scarlet A and find it hard to do the same things.
Hester’s life and treatment could closely relate to today’s homeless people. How? Because just like in the scarlet letter people are afraid of what’s different and and judge people way too quickly. For example when homeless men and women sit outside of stores people think that they are bad people and will behave poorly around customers or steal things from their shops, or how in the scarlet letter Hester was judged too quickly, people assumed what happened or what kind of person she was. When really she was a kind person who got by doing charitable work for a living.
They are publicly humiliated and discriminated a lot of the time, this happens because of the way that they look or because they are poor and not as well off as other people in today’s civilization. This also relates to Hester personally when hester is given the scarlet A and wears it. This is like how a lot of homeless people hold up their signs showing their economic status, how they need food, and or are asking for help from others.
In conclusion The scarlet letter has many similarities to our society today, such as women being shamed, how affairs are handled, and how homeless people can relate to Hester personally, even though each one of these can be related to Hester Prynne personally. All this and more makes this novel historically significant.
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