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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne A comparison between different adaptations and the novel

Kolcsar Andrea Orsolya


Professor Cristian Pralea

10th February 2014

Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 masterpiece is America's first psychological novel. Set in Puritan New Englan in the !"00s# $he Scarlet %etter focuses on the effects of sin an guilt through the life of Hester Prynne# who gives &irth to a aughter after committing a ultery# refuses to i entify the father# an wor's to forge a new life an new i entity. (ecause of the &oo''s sym&olic# imaginative# an nonrealistic slant# it is usually classifie as a romance rather than as a novel. The Scarlet Letter is a tale of a ultery an punishment )the titular scarlet letter* in !+thcentury (oston. Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel# pu&lishe in !850# e,plore the themes of sin an righteousness# love an hate# intolerance an ignity. -t was a social commentary that is still relevant to ay. Hawthorne's novel has &een translate to film numerous times# in a .freely a apte . !//5 film irecte &y 0olan 1off2. Hawthorne &egins his story as Hester Prynne is release from prison# 3aile for the crime of a ultery. She gave &irth to her aughter# Pearl# while in prison. Hester Prynne refuse to reveal the i entity of the man who impregnate her# so the town fathers eci e to force her to wear a scarlet letter .A. every ay to ma'e her shame pu&lic. $he 0everen 4immes ale# wrec'e with guilt for his role in Hester's affair# grows wea' an mentally fragile un er the &ur en of his terri&le secret. Hester's thought5to5&e5 ea hus&an arrives in town un er an assume name an secretly ta'es his revenge upon his wife an her lover. 6hile the story 3umps right into the action of Hester's rama# it fails to enlighten the rea er on the main characters' pasts. 6ho was Hester Prynne &efore she arrive in America7 How was her marriage to 8hillingworth7 6hat is 4immes ale's &ac'groun an how i he come to have an affair with Hester Prynne7 6e get vague clues at &est. $he film wor's to she some light on these matters. -t is a common &elief that films are always of lesser 9uality than the &oo's they are a apte from. - thin' it is mainly true# &ut there are always e,ceptions. - fin the novel an the film of The Scarlet Letter to &e of near e9ual 9uality for several reasons. $he novel has a &etter narrative structure than the film# &ut the film tol a more complete story. $he movie is tol through the eyes of Pearl# while the &oo' is tells the story in thir person. :nli'e the novel# the movie shows how Hester Prynne an 0everen 4immes ale meet# fall in love# an their affair. -n the movie# &ut not in the &oo'# ;istress Hi&&ins an Hester &ecome frien s. %ater in the movie we see Hester<s hus&an <s progress after &eing 'i nappe &y the -n ians. -n the novel# we are not intro uce to 8hillingworth until he arrives in the town. $he first hour or so of the film focuses on the time &efore Hester's imprisonment# when she first arrive in town an met the 0everen 4immes ale. -t also e,plains why 8hillingworth was thought to &e ea an why he su enly appeare in town after so much time ha passe . :nfortunately# this section of the film which tries so har to fill in some gaps in Hawthorne's story oes so at a langui pace an the scenes are mostly ry an ull. Hawthorne's novel i not tell enough of the story an 1off2's film tells too much. 6hen novels are ma e into movies# they are often change to accommo ate the times or the irector<s wishes. Story lines# settings# an even mannerisms of the characters may &e change . $he Scarlet %etter is no e,ception. -n the !//5 version starring 4emi ;oore as Hester Prynne# the story line is change in several parts to enhance the emotion an impact of the film. ;ost of the similarities

&etween the &oo' an the movie are foun towar the mi le of the movie an the ma3ority of the iscrepancies were at the &eginning an en of the film. -n the mi le of the film we see many similarities. Hester<s punishments were the same. 0everen 4immes ale punishes himself in &oth stories. $he mannerisms of the characters are the same. 8hillingworth iscovers who Pearl<s father is an attempts to estroy him. 4immes ale an Hester meet in the woo s to tell of their love for each other. $he film en s with another group of ifferences. $here is a trial in the film of ;istress Hi&&ins who is accuse of &eing a witch. Hawthorne's Hester Prynne is not as fully reali=e as - woul have hope # &ut compare to 4emi ;oore's ren ition# it is remar'a&le. Hawthorne tells us little of Prynne &efore the events of the &oo'# an we rarely get any insight into her inner nature# only her responses to the circumstances that surroun her. However# actions o spea' lou er than wor s an her actions are a mira&le. Hester commits the car inal sin of any woman of her ay> she thin's for herself. She thin's a&out women's role in society# human nature# an the ivinity of people. Hester helps the poor ) espite her own circumstances* an she greatly cares for her aughter. She oes not emoni=e her oppressors? instea she sets an e,ample to others &y living a 9uiet an ignifie life in the face of oppression.No one woul ever accuse this Hester Prynne of &eing a pru e# &ut - thin' the filmma'ers swung too far from Hawthorne's novel in her portrayal in an effort to mo erni=e her an ma'e her e,citing . -n the &oo'# Hester 3ust grits her teeth an &ears it# accepting her punishment an going a&out her life as &est she can# &ecause a la y5Puritan oesn't have a whole lot of options. Hester wears her .A. for the remain er of her life# an serves to comfort an ai those spurne &y the Puritanical community mostly &ecause she ha no other options. ;oore's Hester comes off more li'e a catch5all feminist. She insists that she i nothing wrong# an that the rest of the town is wrong. She itches her .A. at the en of the movie an moves away@with 0everen 4immes ale an Pearl# no less@to live happily ever after as a li&erate la y.- i en3oy Aary Bl man's portrayal of Arthur 4immes ale# however. $he 4immes ale of the novel was wea'# whiny# an not very &right. - coul scarcely &elieve Prynne woul see enough of a man in him to &e him. (ut Bl man# not e,actly famous for his rugge goo loo's# &rings a certain charm an effervescence to the role. His 4immes ale is smart# no&le# an wrac'e with guilt though he is never wea'. He constantly challenges Prynne in her ecisions an ta'es a stan when it matters. - can see why the film Hester fell for him. Bther a aptations as the one in C0!0's instant hit Easy A put a fresh spin on the ol classic. $his loose interpretation is all a&out a nice high school stu ent who han les a &a rumor in the worst way possi&le. Plus it has the a e &enefit of emonstrating how Hawthorne's i eas a&out 3u gment an hypocrisy are still alive an well in to ay's worl . 4espite all the ifferences that were present in the movie# the &asic i ea of the &oo' was &rought through to the au ience. $he main ifference &etween the two stories is the amount of time covere . $he novel &egins with Hester in prison# while the novel &egins long &efore that with Hester<s arrival. $he film was a goo interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne<s story.(oth the movie an the &oo' versions of the famous American piece of literature# $he Scarlet %etter# &y Nathaniel

Hawthorne# hel true to the common characteristics of a typical romance. 0omance as it may seem# woul usually involve love# &ut that is a common misconception. A true romance is a story that portrays a fantasy that has nature an many weir an e,otic aspects. $he movie variation of $he Scarlet %etter# is very similar to the &oo'# it was surprising &ecause most &oo's to movies get change to some egree. Although the movie an the &oo' were so close it i have some ifferences. although the Scarlet %etter an Easy A share many similarities# they also iffer in many ways as well. (oth the movie an the &oo' show the main character eal with struggles# &ut they eal with the struggles in their own ways. $he Scarlet %etter an Easy A &oth show the effect of sin on a person. $he two wor's show how har the characters lives &ecome after their sin. Dou also see guilt come into play. -n the Scarlet %etter guilt ta'es a toll on 4immes ale an rives him to eathE -n Easy A# guilt ta'es effect on Blive an causes her to tell the truth in the en . Altogether though# &oth the &oo' an the movie have a happy en ing. However# the Scarlet %etter an Easy A have a tremen ous amount of ifferences. -n $he Scarlet %etter Hester accepte her sin from the very &eginning for what it was. -n Easy A# Blive i not want to accept her sin# an in &y oing so commits another sin. Also in $he Scarlet %etter Hester oes not see' revenge# instea she 'eeps the i entity of the father a secret. -n Easy A# Blive see's for revenge in the very en in attempt to clear her name. -n conclusion# while the Scarlet %etter an Easy A &oth have many things in common# the two of them also have many ifferences from each other. -n &oth wor's they are a&le to help people# &ut in Easy A# Blive also helps herself out. $he two of them are very much ali'e &ut in the en un er very tight microscope the two turn out to &e completely ifferent. .Easy A. is a movie that is loosely &ase on Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel# .$he Scarlet %etter.. -n the movie# the protagonist# Blive Pen erghast# can &e seen as the parallel of Hester Prynne. Bne of the first similarities &etween these two characters is that they &oth wear a re .A. on their chests. (oth Blive an Hester wear this mar' &ecause of their se,ual &ehaviors that are eeme inappropriate &y their societies. 6hile Hester was force &y her Puritan society to wear this mar'# Blive voluntarily wears it as a sign of efiance. -n &oth the movie an the &oo'# Blive an Hester are &oth assigne certain roles that their societies consi er them as. Blive is seen &y her school as a promiscuous girl an Hester is seen as an a ulterer. (oth characters assume these roles that their societies have put on them an oes not try to fight this la&eling. $hey &oth live with this suppose infamy that they have &een put on with. However# 3ust li'e how Hester 's .A. gra ually &ecame a sign of her &eing .a&le. an .ai .# for those who 'now the truth# Blive similarly &ecame a channel of help for un er ogs an other trou&le people in her school.$here are many similarities> $he main character# a female# ma'es a poor choice &y society's stan ar s# an nee s to live with the conse9uences. A particularly religiousFspiritual group is hell5 &ent on elivering those conse9uences.$he main character &ecomes an outcast# an eals with the situation with her hea hel high. She is also very intelligent# an attempts to o goo unto others espite her social stan ing. Also# they &oth wear re A's sewn onto their tops. $he ifferences are also aplenty> Blive is not pregnant# an in fact# has never ha se,.She has a family support system .Hester's 0e A stan s for .a ultery. while Blive's stan s for# um# .awesome.7 Blive tries to get her male .partners. to tell the truth a&out their relationship# an in fact# she very pu&licly a mits the truth to everyone.She really gets the guy in the en . $here are some very clear ifferences in how the movie an the &oo' epict events in the Scarlet %etter. $he ifference &etween the two pro&a&ly result from the ifference in cultural &ac'groun an social values. $he mo ern &ac'groun of the movie gives it more fle,i&ility an allows the points to &e e,presse to a greater e,tent. $he attitu e of the main characters clearly e,presses the

ifference in etermination that is cast &y time. Blive in .Easy A. &rings the rumor to its greatest e,tent an actually nourishes the growth of the rumor &y falsely a mitting that she is actually getting pai to have se,. Bn the other han # Hester oesn't try o gain more attention than she has alrea y gaine . She tries to change her stan point &y wor'ing har er than &efore in or er to give other people a impression of a strong an in epen ent mother. $he other ma3or ifference &etween Hester an Blive is their position in the surroun ing that they are in. -n the &eginning of the movie# Blive states that she is someone that catches no attention. Blive has a eep esire to &e popular amongst her peers# so she eci es to let the rumors grow to the point that she coul n't ta'e it anymore. Blive tries to fit into her peers# &ut she chooses the wrong way an is isolate . Hester hol s a ifferent position. Puritans are &orn into a strict society an eviating from the Puritan way of life was consi ere a crime. Hester &ecomes an outcast of the Puritan community an she slowly fin s her way &ac' through har wor'. Hester oesn't try to gain more attention through her actions# &ut she oes inten to alleviate her feeling of guilt. $he way the two characters resolve their respective pro&lems is ifferent as well. Blive completely ignores the rumors in the en an finally proves that they are false. Hester a mits the crime that she performe # &ut she wor's to pay those crimes off. $his ifference also results from the society that they live in. 6ith ifferent e,pectation comes ifferent actions. $he e,ample of Hester an Blive prove this to &e correct. n &oth the movie an the &oo'# Blive an Hester are &oth assigne certain roles that their societies consi er them as. Blive is seen &y her school as a promiscuous girl an Hester is seen as an a ulterer. (oth characters assume these roles that their societies have put on them an oes not try to fight this la&eling. $hey &oth live with this suppose infamy that they have &een put on with. However# 3ust li'e how Hester 's .A. gra ually &ecame a sign of her &eing .a&le. an .ai .# for those who 'now the truth# Blive similarly &ecame a channel of help for un er ogs an other trou&le people in her school. Hester<s story shows us the cruelty an hypocrisy of authority# the angers of 'eeping secrets# the futility of flight from our own history. As - re5rea the &oo'# &egan to see why teachers woul imagine it a useful one for high school stu ents# espite its rather age prose. $he &est lesson# - thin'# is that Hester a apts to her circumstances. E,pecte to grow G imme an o&scure &y a isastrous clou # HHester<s etractorsI were astonishe # an even startle # to perceive how her &eauty shone out# an ma e a halo of the misfortune an ignominy in which she was envelope .J0emaining an outcast# Hester raises her aughter Pearl alone# refusing to name the chil <s father.Pearl# Gan imp of evil# em&lem an pro uct of sin#J grows up a living em&o iment of the scarlet letter K truthful# fearless# an utterly cut off from societal constraints. -n Easy A# Emma Stone<s Blive &ecomes &oth Hester an Pearl at once# &oth Angel of ;ercy an wil impish outcast.Agreeing to 'eep secret after secret# Blive fin s herself li'e Hester Gma e the common infamy# at which all man'in was summone to point its finger.JAn when she as's at last to &e free from her we& of concealment# Blive fin s herself &etraye or a&an one &y the same people she has helpe # which &ecomes the premise for the &est literary 3o'e -<ve ever seen in a movie. - woul say that even though $he Scarlet %etter an Easy A were &oth &ase on the same thing# they are completely ifferent.