Another book among those often assigned in schools, the Scarlet Letter is a story that at first glance might seem to have a dated story line, and a plot that the modern audience finds harder to relate to, after all, it is about a woman who is in almost every sense an outcast because she bore a child out of wedlock. She is compelled to wear a Scarlet Letter, an A, upon her chest, so all who see her will know her sin.
While it is true modern society does not look upon single parents, and children born out of wedlock in the same fashion they did during author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s lifetime, he lived between 1804 and 1864, there are other aspects of the story that are still quite relevant. For instance, the father of the child does not wear a Scarlet Letter, in part because of choices Hester Prynne has made, but the fact remains a double standard is revealed within the story. There is also the topic of emotional guilt, and the burden of carrying a secret, things that every generation can relate to, regardless of what the secret is, or what one feels guilty about.
While there are a great many challenges that await any Hollywood production when they attempt to tackle a creative work that started in another medium, the Scarlet Letter may seem easier than most. With few visual effects / special effects to take on, the other world that seeks to be created is our very real past, as opposed to a difficult to imagine and bring to life future. However, I do not recommend those who adore the story of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter watch the 1995 film featuring Demi Moore. While in several places they captured the Puritan environment, and some of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s descriptions of the New World in beautiful technicolor, the film falls short in delivering the full impact of the story, and in many ways neglects to carry through on the painful all too human dilemmas and consequences these characters were subjected to in favor of what, for lack of a better term, could be described as a Hollywood Happy Ending. Then again, if you ever wondered what the Scarlet Letter would have been like with a Hollywood Happy Ending, in place of the author’s envisioning of real life turmoil, perhaps the film is for you.
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