The Scarlet Letter – A reminder of what we have gained

A few months ago, I revisited The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I had previously read this book as a high school student and it was intriguing to read it again as a mother, career woman and wife.

Image result for the scarlet letter

The story is set in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts and describes the life of a young woman, Hester Prynne, who has given birth to a child whose father is unknown. Her punishment, as adultery was a crime at that time, was to stand on a scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation and to wear a scarlet letter A on the front of her dress for the rest of her life. A stood for adultery. The shunning of Hester also extends to her daughter, Pearl, who has no friends other than her mother. Hester manages to scrap a living for them both through her work as a seamstress.

The circumstances described in The Scarlet Letter are such a stark contrast to our modern first-world lives that they seem almost unbelievable. If historical documentation did not exist about the lifestyles of Puritans living in New England during the 1600’s and the Salem witch trials, I think it would be virtually impossible to believe that the events described in this book were not purely fictional. Modern women living first world lives are able to study and enter into any profession they want to. Modern women do not have to remain in abusive relationships, they are able to take back their lives and are even offered protection and assistance in such circumstances. Modern women are able to choose, to a large extent, when we want to have children and how many children we want to have. We are so fortunate to have so much freedom.

This morning I was reading a post by Judith Barrow about how there was an anti-suffrage movement and many of its members where women who believed that the Suffragettes did not fit in with normal society or conform to the standards of ladylike behaviour of that time.  If not for the Suffragettes and their bravery and determination to stand up against the narrow minded mindset of that time and fight for their rights, women might still not have the vote. You can read Judith’s article here: https://judithbarrowblog.com/2018/02/12/the-anti-suffragist-movement-suffrage-women-mondayblogs/

This post reminded me of The Scarlet Letter and the terrible treatment of women and children during that time and during many other periods of history. It brought home to me how easy it is to adopt the herd mentality and to turn against anyone who does not conform to the accepted norms of society, for whatever reason. It reminded me how admirable it is to stand up for the rights of yourself and others and how hard it is to go against the flow of public perception.  Judith’s post inspired this haiku:

Standing tall

 

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85 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter – A reminder of what we have gained

  1. It is so true. Times have DEFINITELY become very different! Thankfully we had the Suffragettes. Now we can have a baby with a petri dish even if we feel so inclined! We really have a lot more freedom in our lives and choices! I mean, I’m wearing pants right now! (no, I’m not just letting you know that I am, in fact clothed right now.. Lol!) if things had gone differently I may not even be allowed to wear them!! So many great changes!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You are totally right! We are definitely lucky that we live today and we can choose whoever we wanna be and nobody can force us to be silent, to tell us that we don’t have any rights or vote. Because we do! Great post! All the best 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Robbie, what a reminder of all we have to be thankful for, while at the same time a warning of what we may become.
    I enjoyed your post and haiku. It gives me a lot to think about!
    Have a great weekend!
    Blessings~

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Bless you! thank you for being thinking of me! I think WP is playing tricks on you, as I am still here but I know that has happened to me before! I find blogs I love suddenly unfollowed, or notifications not working correctly!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You seem to have been as moved by it as I was several months ago with my rereading. I think that I was way too young at 13 when the book was assigned to get as much out of it as I did recently.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Of course you have much more experience and empathy as an adult so you would have more insight. I don’t think reading such a book young is bad either though. It gives you something to reflect on even if you don’t understand all the nuances and detail.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Robbie. I, also read “The Scarlet Letter” in high school. I’m ashamed to say at the time, I didn’t take it as seriously as when I reread it a few years ago. The second time I was outraged and angry, and wished someone strong would have protected Hester and her daughter. I’m glad that times are changing for the better, and those days are long gone. Thank you for bringing up this subject.

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  6. Robbie, thank you for your strong and thoughtful post. I will not repeat particulars as I agree with all you discuss and always been amazed at the reason why women became such targets. In old tribal times it wasn’t so. Men and women shared tasks in life and respected each other.
    Now to the herd mentality, sadly that still seems to be strong and alive. Maybe we can make a bit of difference in our lives and many messages will erode some of the surety of those who damage others.
    miriam

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Miriam. I know we share very similar thoughts on many issues. Those of us who are strong and believe in goodness and equality will continue to fight for our beliefs and voice our opinions. We do make a difference.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Sally. This line of thought reminded me of another very heroic woman whose story I learned while visiting New Zealand. I have written it up into a post and sent it to you to see if you like it. Fits the whole empowering of women theme which is brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Robbie. I couldn’t agree with you more – and yet, there still exists gender inequity. I remember when I taught 20th Century Canadian history to my grade 10 classes, I would show the stats about the number of women who thought the Suffragists were wrong. My students always found that shocking.

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  8. It sadden me that so many women simply do not appreciate what those women went though to get women to where they are today. In some part of the world honor killings and stoning for alleged adultery is being still carried out. But in America, a lot of it wasn’t so long ago that everyone could’ve forgotten. For example: Domestic violent laws were not passed and strongly enforced until the 1980’s and 90’s. All the freedom women enjoy didn’t just happen out of the goodness of people’s heart. Actual it’s so scary how women are allowing what they fought to gain to be reversed that I wrote a book about it called, “The Wife Camp”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post, Robbie. Thanks for the reminder. I studied the Scarlet Letter as part of my American Literature degree and although I knew the story it makes you think and realise society perhaps hasn’t come as far as we think.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful haiku and so incredibly true. I read The Scarlet Letter in high school as well,it’s amazing how much of that story has still stuck with me. We are more fortunate now… even though there are still problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember reading The Scarlet Letter when I was a junior in high school, and I believe that’s when I became a feminist (and that term was just being noted back then — and scoffed at). Hawthorne did an amazing job with this novel and opening the eyes of many, particularly women, who realized that if they didn’t fight for their independence and rights (thank you suffragettes), we all could be wearing a letter on our chests for some injustice.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. In a lot of ways I am pleased of the change in the modern world. We do have a lot to be grateful for. It really saddens me knowing of things that transpired in the past. Thank you Robbie for this eye-opening post. You have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Can’t even imagine to think of a life like that. We definitely have a lot to be grateful for in our times while we still have a long way to go as in some countries and some families, women still do not have freedom to do the things they want to. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Much is improved, much not – thanks to women’s movements (here in SA The Black Sash and many others) the power of patriarchy’s hold is being loosened. Thanks Robbie, I like your photo of standing against the herd mentality ..

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lovely haiku, and I completely agree with the sentiments. We’re very fortunate to be able to reap the benefits of the work of ladies who really suffered so that we could have equal rights and protection under the law. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People always go overboard with everything, Billy Ray, and so it is in the US and Europe that women are now been given opportunities, possibly slightly unfairly. In third world countries, however, a woman’s lot is often very poor and sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Fantastic post Robbie. I’ve read the book a couple of times, and was deeply moved by it. We have come a long way, but there is still much work to be done. I’m glad that you have become a part of the current discussion at my blog, and now understand why you would do so. We have far more in common than I realized. Hats off to you, and I look forward to more,

    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A lot has changed, yes, but there is still oppression, especially for those in abusive relationships where shame and fear run so deep that women do not even know how to begin to reclaim their lives. There’s an understanding that it can happen but there is a huge gap in the knowledge and the ability to get there…at least for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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