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“The Scarlet Letter: Anti-Restriction by Kyle Shreve


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“The Scarlet Letter: Anti-Restriction
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is an insightful novel that should be
available to a wide audience, and certainly not restricted. This book not only provides an
accurate historical portrayal of Puritan society, but also explores positive lessons of
individuality and understanding. These concepts should not be censored because
merely ignoring novels such as this, along with their various forms of controversy (and
potential lessons) restricts readers’ rights to freely be exposed to various concepts and
viewpoints and form their own conclusions and opinions.
The Scarlet Letter takes place in early 17th century Massachusetts, a Puritan
society known for its strict religious practices. It is important for readers to explore the
history of our country, and its many hypocrisies. One of America’s first hypocrisies was
a religious society as oppressive as the Puritans in a nation that was supposed to be a
safe haven for free religious practice. Puritan society had strict religious laws with rather
severe punishments. However, many, or rather most of its inhabitants seemed to agree
with this pious scrutiny: “This woman has brought shame on us all and ought to die. Isn’t
there a law for it? We know there is, both in the Scripture and in the laws of the colony.
Those magistrates who have ignored the law will have only themselves to thank if their
own wives and daughters fall into adultery!” (9). The Bible (Scriptures) was the basis for
many of the laws and punishments of the land, and to many Christians, adultery is
considered a severe sin. In Puritan society, it was often punishable by death. This is a
clear example of how we can learn from history, for now we have laws such as the 8th
amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. With that being said, it is clear how
many would argue to “sugar-coat” history and tweak the telling of certain events to
make them seem more tame, or even ignore them altogether. However, this historical
censorship impedes the opportunity to learn from history and strive for a better
tomorrow.
Many of the topics in The Scarlet Letter​ can translate into today’s society,
including those of insecurity and individuality. For example, Hester’s scarlet letter was a
“symbol of her dishonor”(11) and sin, and she “always suffered dreadful agony when
she felt a human eye on the symbol”(39). This is a very relatable feeling of insecurity
and fear of judgement, which sends many people into isolation from the world due to
societal pressures. However, Hester continued to help people in need, and eventually
the Scarlet Letter “had the effect of a cross”(99) and not only allowed Hester to own up
to her mistakes, but also proudly confess them to society, thereby setting her free. “In
that way, she might eventually purge her soul and achieve a new sort of purity”(36).
This is a great lesson that readers should be able to take from this novel. Having the
boldness to admit one’s imperfections to society is one of the basic forms of freedom.
The main controversies of this novel are the topics of adultery and religion. In
fact, the scarlet letter was a red capital A that represented the word “adulterer”. Many
would argue that adultery is not an appropriate topic for high schoolers, which is a very
valid point, considering that many consider it an unforgivable offense. However, it is
important to expose teens to this topic so that they know what it is, as well as others’
opinions and views on the matter. Religion is another controversial topic in schools,
because today’s society in America emphasizes the separation of church and state.
This controversy is heightened by the increasing diversity in schools, including people of
religions other than Christianity (i.e. Judaism/Hebrews, Islam/Muslims, etc.). However, it
is important for students to discuss this topic in a safe school environment so that they
can understand religious tensions. Ultimately, censorship impedes one’s ability to fully
understand a topic, and the ability for high schoolers to understand religion, and how it
strongly impacts many individual’s morality and ways of life is the only hope for
reconciliation and peace in the future.
In conclusion, The Scarlet Letter should not be restricted because it provides readers the opportunity to experience an important part of history and many controversial issues – including: adultery, religion, and societal pressures. Reading this novel will allow readers to make their own conclusions and judgements to understand these controversies, exercising their right to intellectual freedom.”
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The student news site of Tuscarora High School
“The Scarlet Letter: Anti-Restriction by Kyle Shreve