Hester Prynne T-Shirt: Hester Prynne the Puritan, Pearl Prynne the American, & Roger Chillingworth with the Wampanoag Indians
Posted by League Commissioner on November 11, 2011 0 Comments
It's nearly Thanksgiving, and as our thoughts turn to pilgrims and American Indians, we also think of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
It's true that Hester Prynne's story is in many ways a symbol of the problematic nature of a rigidly moralistic society--particularly as becomes subject to its own myriad hypocrisies, inspired by collective feelings of guilt and moral superiority. But Prynne's story seems to us as also a richly nuanced and complicated fable of the birth of the United States, a kind of unruly bastard child born of romantic rule-breaking, manifested as defiant passions. (How much does that "A" stand for "America," anyway?) The US is, in a way, Pearl. And one could even see Pearl, we suppose as a kind of model for Twain's naturally moral (but far from moralistic) young hero, Huck Finn.
But one aspect that we often forget is that Roger Chillingworth's delay in making it to the village was in part due to being imprisoned by Native Americans. Maybe they already had a sense of his malevolence. Either way, we like the idea of imagining an early Thanksgiving with Chillingworth chowing down on maize and turkey with a bunch of Wampanoag Indians, whining to them about missing his young, hot, wife.