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Observations of a Young Nigerian Female . Powered by Blogger.

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Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Chapters 1-4)

Review My Way – The Scarlet Letter
When I read and watched references to this book in Oyibo books and movies, I thought it probably talked about some scandalous letter a lover had written, really, that’s what I thought. Imagine my surprise when I actually began to read it. Here’s what I think of chapters 1-4.
The book begins with a somber looking crowd standing in front of a prison and with most of them wearing steeple hats, I just knew something sad was going to happen, steeple hats do not dwell in happy places, I believe.
The Heroine, Hester Prynne is about to be publicly punished in the center of the market in New England, not for robbing a bank or murdering a priest, but, for acting unrighteously and having a baby who is obviously not her husband’s (Such a horrible crime!).
Her punishment, dear reader, is to wear the letter “A” sewed onto all her clothes, for like, ever (terrible letter ‘A’). First, She is to wear the letter on her dress and stand on the platform where criminals are punished (by death, or whipping, or standing), she is to stand for 3 hours, under the sun, carrying her almost 4 months old baby (quite a Christian punishment for the baby, seeing as she was an accomplice to the crime). She is to stand there while the entire town stares at her, cursing her in their hearts and, well, doing the same out loud (as they have nothing better to do), while wearing steeple hats (hehehe).
Hester steps out of prison like some female Don, head high, shoulders squared, wearing a lovely dress with the scarlet  letter ‘A’ sewed unto the breast in the loveliest pattern imaginable (she totally made shame fashionable). Our girl walks up to the Pillory (that’s what they called the platform of shame), she stands unashamedly before the crowd (must have been really disappointing for the good people of New England). Hester doesn’t faint or shed tears, no, she’s not having any of that; she stands upright with the illegal baby in her arms and looks right ahead, she even smiles at them sadly, like she pities them (this girl is just goals!). Did I mention the gossips? No? Well, they had earlier stated their thoughts, which include, that Hester should have been branded with a hot, metal letter ‘A’, on her forehead where she can’t cover it up with a coat, or better still, beheaded (you know, because her crime is heinous, worse than abducting the queen, just as bad as spray painting the courthouse).
Suddenly, there’s fear in Hester’s face, she stares at an old, weirdly dressed dude who just walked in looking like an ad for end-of-life crisis. This guy has strange shoulders; one is higher than the other, I call them see-saw shoulders. However, I don’t think Hester is afraid of his shoulders. She’s so frightened by this guy, she holds her baby too tight that the kid yelps her dislike of the treatment. The old guy asks a bystander (one of the many) about the spectacle and why there’s a lady wearing the letter of shame and sunbathing before the whole town. Bystander must have been waiting impatiently for an opportunity to tell the story, so, he excitedly gives Sir Dude the 411. Turns out, Hester got married in Amsterdam and was sent over by her new husband to Massachusetts, alone, while he stays back to “look after some necessary affairs”, (so romantic). Prior to the scandal, she’d lived alone, laboring in the new town, being a good person and waiting for her husband. It was generally assumed that her husband was dead at sea, everyone thought so. Well, she got pregnant for Mr. Anonymous and she’s not apologizing.
Anyway, Hester’s church pastor gives a heart wrenching speech in a bid to get her to reveal her baby daddy, but, she holds onto her secret (this girl would make a great spy), and her “I fear no man” face is back on. Another pastor, who seems to be the boss of all the pastors, and a busybody, preaches fire and brimstone in a very loud voice, but, Hester holds her ground. Ding! 3 hours is over and Hester is led back into prison where she has something close to a nervous breakdown.
While in prison, Wrinkled old fella pays her a visit. Turns out; he’s her husband (I was as shocked as you are, or are not) and he married her knowing she didn’t love him. Her parents were poor and he wanted to capture some youth, or something. Here’s an even weirder part, he married her and sent her off to Massachusetts so he could go into the world and learn new, deep stuff, maybe find the meaning of life (or look for dancing piglets).
Anyways, Sir Old Fart is in town now and he’s not pleased with the reception. He says the scales are balanced between them, they’re even, he did something dumb, and she has reciprocated (It’s a do-me-I-do-you thing).  However, he says he’s going to find Mr. Anonymous, and he says it ominously (I like to imagine he sounded like the villain from Puss in Boots: The Three Amigos, you know, the guy that stole the heart from the queen’s crown). Then, Old Fart makes a deal with Hester, he won’t reveal the identity of the baby-daddy when he finds out (he’s confident he will), and she won’t reveal his identity as the long lost husband, dude says he doesn’t want to be associated with the scandal (if you ask me, he deserves the see-saw shoulders).
At the time and place where this book is set, Law and Religion were like conjoined twins, the two were inseparable. There were almost no rules that didn’t spring from religion. No one had the right to possess any beliefs aside from the general belief of the people. You either believe what you’re supposed to believe, act like you’re supposed to act, or be punished into the faith, or be a savage, or be exiled, or be dead. Also, thou must wear thine steeple hats and look like an unattractive, concrete tower.
PS: Hester’s husband has taken up a new name, Roger Chillingworth, we might discover his old name in forthcoming chapters, I just really prefer Sir Old Fart.

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