“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne,
Disclaimer: This book is a tough read, and requires a hell lot of your time and effort. A classic it is, set in the 17th century; such books have their own sway of English and prose. But trust me, cross this hurdle and you would surely not regret reading it. For, this book speaks volumes, on a woman’s struggle for dignity. The Scarlet Letter was written in 1850 by the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne and till day it is considered a masterpiece among classics.
The Puritans were a minority religious group who used strong influences of Catholicism to set their morals and philosophies. Hester Prynne lived in one such society, where religion played a vital role in all aspects of life. Any adultery was a major sin and it called for the strictest and harshest of punishments, especially if the individual involved was a female. Hester Prynne’s husband is presumed dead. The young Hester has an affair with a local man from the community, which results in a pregnancy. Hester gives birth to a baby girl. Her decision to have this illegitimate child, leads to outrage within the community and Hester is subject to public humiliation and interrogation.
The community demands the name of the father of her child. However, the obstinate Hester refuses to divulge any information. Thus begins a set of terrible consequences that the community inflicts on Hester. She is to wear a flaming scarlet letter “A” that represents the fact that Hester indeed is an adulteress. Hester undergoes public interrogation as she parades in front of the entire community. Standing in the hot sun with a tiny baby, stuck to her chest like a little joey in a pouch.
Despite being disgraced and being forced to wear a scarlet, Hester slowly works towards redeeming herself and standing up in life for the sake of her daughter. As the years pass through, she faces the stigma cast upon her with strength unknown, battling it all out. After seven long years of painful rehabilitation, she emerges as a strong, inspiring woman.
The Scarlet Letter requires investment of some quiet time. One must also try to understand what society was like in the 17th century, while reading the book. It was written at a time when society lived by strict regulations set by religious preachers. Amidst all this Hester emerges as a free thinking woman, despite grappling with guilt and her sexuality.
This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books
The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.