American Icons: The Scarlet Letter
Friday, November 01, 2013
This is the novel that invented forbidden love.
One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors was a judge in the Salem witch trials. In his novel of early America, Hawthorne explores the tension between our deeply ingrained Puritanism and our celebration of personal freedom. Hester Prynne was American literature’s first heroine, a fallen woman who’s not ashamed of her sin. “I think the thing that makes it modern, though it’s hard to see,” says novelist Tom Perrotta (Little Children), “is that the real crime isn’t desire, it’s hypocrisy. I think that’s a specifically American view of sex.” And even in the age of the internet sex scandal, says Jezebel’s Lindy West, we still apply the scarlet A as punishment — “blaming women for their sexuality, and turning that into a moral failing.”
Bonus Track: Tom Perrotta on Nathaniel Hawthorne's influence
Perrotta tells Anna Sale how Hawthorne influenced his novels The Leftovers and Little Children.
A still from the 1917 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. Stuart Holmes, at left, plays Arthur Dimmesdale. At right, Mary Martin is Hester Prynne, with her daughter Pearl played by Kittens Reichert.
Love StoryArtist: Taylor SwiftAlbum: FearlessLabel: Big Machine Records, LLC
Blue HorizonArtist: Sidney BechetAlbum: The Best of Sidney BechetLabel: Blue Note Records
Cow SongArtist: Meredith MonkAlbum: Our Lady of LateLabel: Wergo
SarabandeArtist: Amy Shulman and John SchneiderAlbum: Just West CoastLabel: Bridge
Sonata No. 16 in A Minor for Piano, D 845: I. ModeratoArtist: Walter KleinAlbum: The 99 Most Essential Schubert MasterpiecesLabel: X5 Music Group
Walk of ShameArtist: P!nkAlbum: The Truth About Love