For the first time since I joined this book club, this was not the first time that I had read this book. It was actually my third time. But luckily I've always liked it.
Here are some of the points that struck me as I read this time around.
I was very struck with the lifestyle of the Puritans. "Law and religion were one in the same.", it said, and in theory that sounds like a good idea. How much less crime and sin would there be if when caught we had to pay our due to society and wear it like a badge for everyone to see. I know that would make me think twice about decisions. However, they took it so far and forgiveness never seemed to be realized and that made me sad.
I was also struck with how serious they felt they had to be. The children weren't allowed to have fun without being thought to be possessed by spirits.
And it hit me that "law and religion" were one in the same, yet those that had to deal with the law, (Governor etc.) were what provided Hester with a living. The way she could so greatly decorate with a needle would have been considered a sin to wear in everyday life. It would have been showing pride, however those high in society weren't held up to that standard and they utilized Hesters talents so much, her child never went hungry. It seems that government officials thinking they are above the law isn't such a new concept after all.
I am a believer that no man should be punished for another mans mistakes and the way that Pearl was considered a tyrant because of the circumstances surrounding her birth (at times even by her own mother) made me incredibly sad and there was more than once I wanted to jump in the book and slap some people upside the head.
I didn't find Pearl to be the little elf that everyone else did. I saw her as a normal, slightly undisciplined, little girl. As a baby, when I read about the first thing she noticed was the scarlet letter, it made sense, we know now that babies are attracted to contrasting colors, like red and gold. Every child wants to ask questions, play make-believe and tease their parents every once in a while.
I loved when Hester would remember that she was a blessing though. She was her "Pearl of Great Price" bought at a major price, yet a true blessing which helped, or at least should have, to prove that the Lord did want her to have some happiness in life. His forgiveness is immediate, unlike the rest of us.
I also laughed every time the women called themselves gossips. It was so incredibly true, yet they didn't realize that gossip and judging others are evils as well.
The surprise about the Reverend Dimmesdale as the father wasn't there this time, however, I noticed this time through how much I saw his inner torment through out the whole story and not just the end of the book.
Believe it or not, I had somehow forgotten that Roger Chillingsworth, (the husband) had stayed in the town and become a big part of the story. I watched his every move very closely this time. It seems like the first time I thought him to be a forgiving, yet didn't want to be a part of it, nice guy. This time I saw him as much more calculating, and revengeful. True, he took care of Hester and Pearl in their times of illness, which is to his credit. (I do think that stemmed from the love he once had for her and that he did have enough self-esteem issues -which he spoke of in the prison- so that he really did put part of her blame on himself.) But he was not the forgiving sort and I think he was really out for blood while looking for the other man. In the end I feel that we learned how much revenge will consume your life and at times even noticeable to others. Hester noticed at times how much he looked more disfigured than he had before. And while half the town thought he was a God-send to the Reverend while the other half thought he looked evil and feared for his safety. We as readers saw how evil his intentions really were.
I am always reminded of the lesson in forgiveness. Not just that we need to forgive others, ( I still read in awe, how the others in the community treated not just Hester, but her poor Pearl who had nothing to do with her mothers sins.) but most in forgiving ones self. It became quite obvious that even though Hester had to deal with complete humiliation, she didn't have to suffer half as much as what Reverend Dimmesdale put himself through.
Hester was able to find peace, to learn to love her fellow men and do good for others. While even in his service to God, Dimmesdale found misery. Each speech from the pulpit wasn't really meant for the people that he did help, it was meant to torment himself.
Sin, or really the guilt there from, really can take over your life, it can affect your health, your personality, every aspect of your life, if you let it consume you.
What did you think or learn from the book this month?