The Scarlet Letter in the Modern World

Alexander Glick

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Throughout the book The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, there seems to be an eternal struggle between individualism and societal conformity.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s in-depth look into Puritan society allows the reader to examine this intricate relationship.  The novel begins with a description of the jail that Hester Prynne, the protagonist, will emerge from and its seemingly significant contrast with a beautiful rose bush near it.  Hester then emerges from the prison with a baby, Pearl, in her arms, defiant in her demeanor and contrasted with the Puritans that surround her to watch.  As the book progresses, Hester is repeatedly challenged by the face of a heavily regulated and critical society.  Her battle against social ostracism and constant shame is still applicable in modern day life and can teach a lesson to people in the present.  During such a tumultuous time, people nowadays have a tendency to be swept up in the social movement or reaction of their localities.  With President Trump in office, regardless of one’s opinion on him and his politics, America has become more partisan and contentious.  Discussing politics or even recognizing that we have a new president can stoke a flame that will lead to a roaring bonfire of debate and unabashed fury in conversation.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s piece demonstrates the value of individualism and aplomb during the maelstrom of quickly changing political and social winds.  This is not to say that staying only constant like Hester does in the novel is always the correct way to handle a new idea or different political opinions.  However, the swift winds of social change or reprisal should not decide one’s opinions on debatable issues.