From Hawthorne to Povich

White Knight extraordinaire Nathanial Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter is cherished by feminists and English teachers alike.  In his magnum opus, protagonist Hester Prynne marries a beta provider and cuckolds him with an alpha.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As with many Romantic novels, the plot starts with a miscommunication.  Hester marries her beta provider (Chillingworth), and he sends her to the new world ahead of him.  It isn’t clear exactly how long it takes for Chillingworth to join her, but we do know that Hester wrote to him upon arriving in the new world:

Dearest Chillingworth,

I am writing to inform you that I have successfully arrived in the new world.  I hope you fancy the illustration on the back of this note.  There are many strange beasts in the new world, but Jackalopes are the strangest of them all.

Please write immediately with your planned arrival date.  In the meantime, I need your guidance.  Should I:

__ Remain faithful to our marriage vows?

__Cuckold you with the local alpha?

Unfaithfully yours,

Hester

Unfortunately Chillingworth either never received the postcard or failed to respond in time.  One popular theory is that he did reply, but failed to use a #2 pencil.  However, this theory isn’t supported by the text.  Either way Hester was forced to make this difficult decision without his guidance.  Our heroine decided to go with cuckolding him with the local alpha, the famous Reverend Dimmesdale.  Unfortunately Chillingworth was delayed approximately a year and didn’t return in time to allow Hester to conceal her cuckoldry.  When he finally arrives, it has been approximately a year since Hester conceived the alpha’s child;  her daughter is now 3 months old, and Hester is forced to wear a scarlet A, which stands for Apex Fallacy.   Chillingworth understands that her fate is largely his fault, since she only married him for his money and status, and he didn’t return in time for her to conceal the cuckoldry and raise the alpha’s child as if it were his:

“Hester,” said he, “I ask not wherefore, nor how thou hast fallen into the pit, or say, rather, thou hast ascended to the pedestal of infamy on which I found thee. The reason is not far to seek. It was my folly, and thy weakness. I—a man of thought—the book-worm of great libraries—a man already in decay, having given my best years to feed the hungry dream of knowledge—what had I to do with youth and beauty like thine own? Misshapen from my birth-hour, how could I delude myself with the idea that intellectual gifts might veil physical deformity in a young girl’s fantasy? Men call me wise. If sages were ever wise in their own behoof, I might have foreseen all this. I might have known that, as I came out of the vast and dismal forest, and entered this settlement of Christian men, the very first object to meet my eyes would be thyself, Hester Prynne, standing up, a statue of ignominy, before the people. Nay, from the moment when we came down the old church-steps together, a married pair, I might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path!”

“Thou knowest,” said Hester—for, depressed as she was, she could not endure this last quiet stab at the token of her shame—”thou knowest that I was frank with thee. I felt no love, nor feigned any.”

Hester admits that cuckolding him in such an obvious way was wrong.  Chillingworth isn’t angry with her but instead the alpha she continues to protect:

“I have greatly wronged thee,” murmured Hester.

“We have wronged each other,” answered he. “Mine was the first wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay. Therefore, as a man who has not thought and philosophised in vain, I seek no vengeance, plot no evil against thee. Between thee and me, the scale hangs fairly balanced. But, Hester, the man lives who has wronged us both! Who is he?”

Still loyal to the alpha, Hester refuses to tell.  This is the aspect of the book which feminists cherish, the dreaded double standard.  How is it fair that when one conspirator is caught and refuses to name their partner in crime, only the one who is caught is punished?  Why doesn’t society punish the alpha whose name she keeps secret?

Fortunately we now live in more enlightened times, and do not judge women who bear children out of wedlock, cuckold their husbands, or frivolously divorce.  Hawthorne is long gone, and unfortunately was never able to witness our society’s advanced progress.  However, his spirit lives on, and a new breed of white knight has filled his worthy shoes.  One of these white knights is Maury Povich, who assists women with similar problems to that of Hester Prynne.  As he does so he shelters them from any moral judgment.  We now know that women should not be judged, and that men should be judged by whether they man up and do their duty (pay child support).

Here Povich comforts a woman named Ruth who wishes to solve the mystery of her child’s paternity.  She arrives with a list of 5 prime suspects.  A modern day Hester Prynne, Ruth is a victim of her own bad choices.

Povich:  Are you ashamed?

Ruth:  Yes.

Audience:  Awwww

Povich:  You know you don’t have a right to be ashamed.  You have a right to be proud. You have a right to be brave to come on a show nationwide, throughout the country, and admit these things.

Next, Povich comforts Tiffany who has been wronged by her boyfriend Chris.  Chris failed to man up when Tiffany told him she was pregnant.  He refuses to accept that the child is his, and has made awful accusations against her.

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69 Responses to From Hawthorne to Povich

  1. greyghost says:

    Dalrock on that second video when she said she was sorry was maybe the first time in her life she ever acknowledged any man as a human being. What was reasuring to me was inspite of the mas anger and emotions this man (as men are capable of) was able to see and understand and show her that he understood the gesture. Believe it or not a man like that could marry my daughter. For what was shown was man that was being done wrong and didn’t just play along with it. The sorry cock riding cunt was living with a working man with balls. And that was still not enough. I look forward to reading your female commenters sponses to these videos.

  2. Lily says:

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

  3. JutGory says:

    I did not watch the videos, but I have to take issue with your reading of Hawthorne.

    It has been a while since I read it (so some of this may be due to a faulty memory), but I do not see how feminists could like it. She was shamed for being an adultress (Of course, they hate the slut-shaming, but that seems to be where the thought process ends). It may have been “unfair” that she would be identified with the Scarlet Letter and the father was unknown. But, that letter, and the shame that went with it, became the source of her redemption. The father, a minister (?)(I can see the feminists having a field day with that), remained hidden and his guilt destroyed him. The father was afraid to be exposed; she had no choice. She was ultimately the hero (which the feminists love-with their “slutwalks,” etc.), but she was heroic because she knew she was wrong, was forced to acknowledge that, and was able to redeem herself.

    In my recollection, it is a tribute to shame, guilt, and human redemption, all of which are sorely lacking in much of society today.

    -Jut

  4. Stephenie Rowling says:

    Jut
    I can see that reading but the feminist reading is completely different. See the modern version Easy A.

  5. Doomed Harlot says:

    I believe that Hester Prynne’s sin was fornication, not cuckoldry. If I remember correctly, she was under the misapprehension that her husband was dead when she slept with the Rev. Dimmesdale. Therefore, she lacked the requisite intent to be considered

    That said, JutGory’s point may still stand, since Hawthorne, and his character Hester Prynne, may have accepted that her fornication was in fact sinful. I haven’t read the book since I was a teenager so I can’t comment on that aspect of it.

    But even so, there would be much in this book for feminists to like. Prynne is not portrayed as the inhuman monster as “sluts” are so often viewed. Rather, she is a complex, three-dimensional character who resists being defined by her one act of fornication or by society’s view of her. She takes full responsibility for her own conduct and exhibits agency in making moral decisions, such as her refusal to rat out Dimmesdale. The point isn’t that Prynne is all good, or some sort of feminist superhero*, but rather that she has moral courage. (*Unfortunately, the god-awful Hollywood adaptation of The Scarlett Letter, starring Demi Moore, simplistically tried to portray Prynne as just that.)

    A feminist reading of a given book doesn’t require a conclusion that the female characters are all good or as always bucking the norms of their patriarchal societies. Feminists tend to like female characters who are portrayed as fully human. For example, Scarlett O’Hara is a vile woman but she her character is a great example of feminist writing because (a) she totally belies the stereotypes of the demure Southern belle, (b) she illustrates the complete uselessness and hypocrisy of the role set out for women in the antebellum South, and (c) even though she is an awful, awful person, she is still complex enough to inspire sympathy as she overcomes the adversity she has to face in the wake of the destruction of her society.

  6. Kai says:

    I always thought as well that she had been told her husband was lost to sea or something, and that the crime was simply sex out of wedlock, and afterward the fact that it was actually adultery came to light.

    As for Maury, this is the first time I’ve watched a segment:
    Does Maury shield these women from social judgement? I mean, I suppose it sounds like he treats undeservedly sympathetically, but does any viewer watch maury and feel sorry for women shown? (does anyone watch maury at all…?) I would have thought these women were generally being shown up as sluts for viewers to feel superior to. But then, I don’t know who actually watches the show.

    The first one really just makes me feel sorry for the poor child. That is not going to be an easy life. I foresee the same problems. The mother identifies having a learning disability and a speech impediment. I don’t know whether it’s just the speech that gives her the impression of being extremely slow, but I sure hope she manages to be a functional mother. This is sad for society.
    Maury’s statement about feeling good for admitting it only stands if it were over. If she screwed around and then truly realized the error of her ways and was done with it, it doesn’t change any of what she has done to her child and to her boyfriend, but it helps to admit her wrongdoing and demonstrate that she has changed.
    That doesn’t seem like it will be the case though.

    the second one really makes me wonder. she was so adamant that I think she probably believes herself. With the man’s vindication, I suspect he’s got the truth about the rest of it as well, and I wonder how it is possible to live with that level of self-delusion. I have no respect or sympathy for the woman, but it again makes me really wish that there were better birth control out there that would prevent people like this from procreating. Again, this child is not going to be raised to do any better with herself…

  7. J says:

    In my recollection, it is a tribute to shame, guilt, and human redemption, all of which are sorely lacking in much of society today.

    Indeed! The emphasis is no on the glorification of the sin, but on the accessibility of redemption, which Hester obtains through living a life of charity and good deeds after being “branded” with the A.

    She takes full responsibility for her own conduct and exhibits agency in making moral decisions, such as her refusal to rat out Dimmesdale. The point isn’t that Prynne is all good, or some sort of feminist superhero*, but rather that she has moral courage.

    Yep, in fact, Hester is the only character in the story to “man up,” as they say.

    Additional clues can be seen in the name symbolism of the story. Hester is a variant of Esther, cf. the Biblical heroine who turns an iffy sexual situation into the redemption of her people. Chillingworth’s name denotes his cold and unforgiving nature; his physical deformity symbolizes his twisted, vengeful soul. And Dimmesdale, well, he’s just morally and socially dim. It’s a child, Pearl, who leads him to responsibility and redemption. He is hardly an alpha, and Chillingworth is more of an omega than a beta provider. I don’t think an evo-psych frame was intended by Hawthorne.

    Povich: You know you don’t have a right to be ashamed. You have a right to be proud. You have a right to be brave to come on a show nationwide, throughout the country, and admit these things.

    I think this statement has more to do with Povich’s desire to keep a steady supply of guests on his show than any cogent statement on his part about morality.

  8. J says:

    but does any viewer watch maury and feel sorry for women shown?

    No. I’m sure those who watch just enjoy the freakshow.

    I would have thought these women were generally being shown up as sluts for viewers to feel superior to.

    Quite possibly, though there are probably some babymommas who identify with the women on the show.

  9. My Name Is Jim says:

    That Keith guy needs the manosphere and he needs it NOW.

  10. J says:

    Whoops, “I’m sure those who watch just enjoy the freakshow.” should have read “I’m sure MOST OF those who watch just enjoy the freakshow.

  11. Passer_By says:

    @kai

    “As for Maury, this is the first time I’ve watched a segment:
    Does Maury shield these women from social judgement? I mean, I suppose it sounds like he treats undeservedly sympathetically, but does any viewer watch maury and feel sorry for women shown?”

    I don’t watch the show, but I’ve seen a few of these segments on line. Maybe these aren’t representative of the show, but the segments I’ve seen tend to follow the same pattern. Girl comes out and gives a sob story about how hurt she is that he is abandoning her and THEIR child. Cries. Audience coos. Girl sobs and swears that she would never have cheated on him. Maurie consoles her. Guy comes out and gives another story. Audience jeers him. Maury uses stern language about manning up if its his. He says he will. Maury sternly judges his questioning as to whether it’s his. Test comes out. It’s not his. He dances around. Girl sobs again to look sympathetic. Maury consoles her despite the fact that she just lied through her teeth to him and audience about potential paternity and was trying to rope a guy into raising a kid that wasn’t his. Guy is made to feel badly for not wanting to be cuckholded.

    [D: Nailed it.]

  12. My Name Is Jim says:

    The woman in the second vid lies about cheating on him right up until the moment the rssults are revealed, them is instantly sorry. An utter and complete lack of personal character, just does and says whatever feels good at that moment. The guy shouldn’t have hugged her, it was white knight. He should’ve just replied “Well it’s too late for that now” and looked away.

  13. Stephenie Rowling says:

    Are this people real? Because really why would a woman that knows the baby is not the guy she is claiming is would just lie when she knows she will get a test that show her lies? I mean is not a “should we test him or not” the test is a given, unless they already decided to do the test and they are poor so they go to Maury. All this smells scam to me, YMMV.

  14. Passer_By says:

    “Because really why would a woman that knows the baby is not the guy she is claiming is would just lie when she knows she will get a test that show her lies? ”

    I think it’s not clear to them who the father is, and they are hoping it will turn out to be this guy, as if that will prove that she didn’t cheat on him. Also, I think young women have a way of deciding whose they would like it to be, and then convincing themselves that that is the case. Although some are honest and say they really don’t know (like the first one).

  15. greyghost says:

    Stephenie Rowling
    That hamster is a bad dude. It is immune to radiation too. Also, it is real, the poor white trash and the ghetto and the welfare state couldn’t exist with out it.

  16. My Name Is Jim says:

    Yes, the spin on these segments is just terrible. There’s just no expectation that any of the women have any ethics or accountability (including the ones in the audiences). Pregnancy gives them license to tell any lies they want, and it’s simply up to men to read the tea leaves and know when not to trust them while the women try their hardest to mislead and shame them and rally others to do so. That’s why we need the manosphere.

  17. Aurini says:

    Passer_By, I believe you’re over thinking it.

    “Because really why would a woman that knows the baby is not the guy she is claiming is would just lie when she knows she will get a test that show her lies? ”

    Quite simply, lack of future time orientation. “Right *now* I’ll get yelled at, if I admit cheating. What bout 5 minutes in the future, when the test proves I have? Well, that’s the future, not now – I live in the present!”

    My theory: part socialization, part genetic disability.

  18. Stephenie Rowling says:

    “That hamster is a bad dude. It is immune to radiation too. Also, it is real, the poor white trash and the ghetto and the welfare state couldn’t exist with out it.”

    Heh maybe we should name it the official religion of the West: Hamsterism. All hail the holy hamster that in its mighty contradictory, feelingarchy wisdom has allowed me to transmutate the child in my womb to have the father of my choosing, regardless of pesky things like biology and genetics :)

  19. corey ashcraft says:

    All hail Leminiwincks……South Park already did it! Twice

  20. uncleFred says:

    There is a name for those who exploit the human condition for their own profit. When they determine the sperm donor for these poor unfortunate children, he will and should be held to pay child support. After all each of them was stupid enough to allow these women the opportunity to get pregnant. That is beside my point. Povich is little more than a pimp. Perhaps even less honest than a pimp.

    Sometimes I fear for the survival of our species. Sad that we have “entertainment” that is little more than watching humanity roll in emotional excrement, taking their children along as padding…

  21. Dalrock says:

    @JutGory

    I did not watch the videos, but I have to take issue with your reading of Hawthorne.

    It has been a while since I read it (so some of this may be due to a faulty memory), but I do not see how feminists could like it.

    Since the feminists have already weighed in with their positive opinions of the book, I’ll assume the basic point of whether feminists like it is settled. As for why, I think one explanation is that it invites them to claim that the woman is taking full responsibility for her actions while simultaneously rationalizing why it wasn’t her fault. For example, everyone seems to just know that Hester believed her husband died at sea. This is in fact how it was taught to me as well. However, I’ve never seen this backed up in the text. I’m not an expert on the book, so it is possible it really is there. Either way, I think Hawthorn does invite this type of rationalization to absolve Hester of any considered judgment.

    The other thing which really strikes me about the story is how Chillingworth is portrayed. Hawthorne’s view of betas is essentially that of most women. Chillingworth is a one dimensional character who is either useful to Hester (providing status and wealth as a husband, curing her illness, etc) or is guilty of being a creepy beta. He has no hopes and dreams of his own which are worth consideration. Chillingworth traveled across the sea to join his wife. Somewhere along the way he was abducted by Indians and held up for a year or so. When he finally walks out from the woods the first thing he sees is Hester being shamed for having cheated on him. Despite all of that, he isn’t angry with her, doesn’t berate her. Instead it is all the alpha and his own fault in his eyes.

  22. J says:

    For example, everyone seems to just know that Hester believed her husband died at sea

    Check out the book summary on Wiipedia; it’s there too.

    Either way, I think Hawthorn does invite this type of rationalization to absolve Hester of any considered judgment.

    Perhaps, but she is still guilty, as is Dimmesdale, of fornicating outside of marriage which was still a major sin to the Puritans.

    Chillingworth is a one dimensional character

    I think this is because Hawthorne, a Romantic writer in the same sense as Byron or Wordsworth (not like Harlequin romance), is using Chillingsworth as a symbol of the rigidity of Puritan morality that Hawthorne is rebelling against. He does not develop the character fully because he does not want the reader to sympathize with him or with Puritanism. He is just there to symbolism a philosophy that Hawthorne finds abhorrent and satanic. (Chillingworth is portrayed as in league with the devil at some points in the novel.)

    Instead it is all the alpha and his own fault in his eyes.

    I’m not sure why you see Dimmesdale as alpha, except that before the story starts in earnest, he momentarily gets lucky with someone he believes is a widow. It appears to be the last sex he ever has–no harem for him. He mentally and physically flagellates himself for the rest of the novel, vacillatiing like a simp between shame and urge to confess until he is pushed into confession by a child and a cripple, both of whom who have been dogging him unmercilessly throughout the novel. He denies himself the redemption/manhood of simultaneously coming clean and defying the rigid Puritan mores that Hawthorne opposes until the end of the book when he is forced into a brief moment of alpha that kills him/liberates him. Had he been Hawthorne’s alpha hero he would have defied convention and preached at the opening of the book the less legalistic, more forgiving Christianity that Hawthorne was advocating. But then there’d have been no story…

  23. J says:

    Sometimes I fear for the survival of our species. Sad that we have “entertainment” that is little more than watching humanity roll in emotional excrement, taking their children along as padding…

    Coming soon to a theater near you…bear baiting and public executions….

  24. J says:

    All this smells scam to me, YMMV.

    Well, there is an all expenses paid trip to NYC involved…

    Springer is known to be staged; I would not be surprised if Maury Povich is as well.

  25. Looking Glass says:

    Hehe, I was surprised no one had talked about the Scarlett Letter around the Manosphere (that I’ve seen). But, my opinion from high school still holds: it’s a horrible book and all of the characters are pathetic.

    Rev. Dimmesdale always came across as the biggest waste of human existence in the book. He guilts himself to death, or near death. That’s not Alpha, that’s Omega. In a book full of lots of stupid (Hester is the only character that comes off as not horrible), Rev. Dimmesdale is the worst. I could barely get through it. I have a lot tolerance for stupidity, haha.

  26. @Passer_by

    but the segments I’ve seen tend to follow the same pattern. Girl comes out and gives a sob story about how hurt she is that he is abandoning her and THEIR child. Cries. Audience coos. Girl sobs and swears that she would never have cheated on him. Maurie consoles her. Guy comes out and gives another story. Audience jeers him. Maury uses stern language about manning up if its his. He says he will. Maury sternly judges his questioning as to whether it’s his. Test comes out. It’s not his. He dances around. Girl sobs again to look sympathetic. Maury consoles her despite the fact that she just lied through her teeth to him and audience about potential paternity and was trying to rope a guy into raising a kid that wasn’t his. Guy is made to feel badly for not wanting to be cuckholded.

    Comedic Genius

    @GreyGhost

    That hamster is a bad dude. It is immune to radiation too. Also, it is real, the poor white trash and the ghetto and the welfare state couldn’t exist with out it.

    You & Solomon nailed it…

    Other than that, no wonder why men are scared to death about knocking up a whore….

  27. jz says:

    TV shows like Teen Moms, Maury Povich, and Jerry Springer provide valuable exposure of the wreckage of the welfare state. Government dependency destroys people’s character, and the wreckage is highly heritable. I wish all middle and upper class people would view these exposes. Viewing should be mandatory for voting privilege.

  28. Kai says:

    “For example, everyone seems to just know that Hester believed her husband died at sea. This is in fact how it was taught to me as well. However, I’ve never seen this backed up in the text. I’m not an expert on the book, so it is possible it really is there. Either way, I think Hawthorn does invite this type of rationalization to absolve Hester of any considered judgment.”

    So did Hawthorne desire to make it ‘not her fault’, or is this one of the things that has simply been read-in by generations of teachers? I didn’t actually enjoy the book or the characters and have insufficient interest to actually go back and scour the text.
    I did think it was still presented as a sin, either for not waiting the required time of grieving, or simply for sex out of wedlock. But then, it’s in a long line of stories that ask us to cheer for the cheaters by presenting the other half as worthless.

  29. alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Must-see video concerning this topic:

    Maury – You are not the father -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt2i0ts-uck

  30. Dalrock says:

    @Kai

    I did think it was still presented as a sin, either for not waiting the required time of grieving,

    From what I can tell the text is very vague about the timing of all of this. Specifically, I can’t find a reference to how long Chillingworth was expected to wait before coming to the new world and what information was available to Hester regarding his trip. The only time reference I could find was his being delayed by Indians for about a year. He walks into town from the wilderness about a year after Pearl’s conception. Without further information it sounds like Hester jumped the Reverend’s bones at the same time Chillingworth went missing, perhaps sooner if you don’t assume that she became pregnant instantly. For whatever reason, this wasn’t important to Hawthorne to reference (or at least I can’t find it). If someone can point to more clarification on this in the text I would appreciate it.

  31. Dalrock says:

    @Looking Glass

    Rev. Dimmesdale always came across as the biggest waste of human existence in the book. He guilts himself to death, or near death. That’s not Alpha, that’s Omega. In a book full of lots of stupid (Hester is the only character that comes off as not horrible), Rev. Dimmesdale is the worst. I could barely get through it. I have a lot tolerance for stupidity, haha.

    Alpha is in the eye of the beholder. I call him alpha because he was the local celebrity. One of the summaries I read said that he was famous in the old world. In the new world he would be the center of attention. A sort of puritanical rock star whom everyone’s eyes were on every Sunday.

  32. Doomed Harlot says:

    I don’t think feminist appreciation of the book requires a reading that renders Hester blameless. As Dalrock notes in the post, Hester herself acknowledges at one point that she has wronged Chillingworth. And even if Hester is innocent of any adulterous intent, I would imagine that a 19th century guy like Hawthorne would not think that fornication was A-OK.

    As I said, a feminist character needn’t be a superhero, devoid of all moral flaws and always bucking the system. Scarlett O’Hara for example is a character often appreciated by feminists despite the fact that she is obviously written as an unlikeable woman, a terrible person with grave moral flaws. The genius of the character is her portrayal as a nuanced, three dimensional person responding to her upbringing and her circumstances.

    Also, I don’t think you can ever say anything as simple as “feminists like” a particular work of literature. Good literature tends to involve a great deal of complexity and ambiguity. Very few works of ltierature are unambiguously feminist. Many, such as Gone With the Wind, are feminist in certain respects and not in others; others, perhaps the Scarlet Letter among them, raise feminist issues without necessarily providing a neat resolution to those issues.

  33. Dan in Philly says:

    I really enjoyed the post, Dal, even though I couldn’t watch the video.

  34. slwerner says:

    Dalrock – ”Without further information it sounds like Hester jumped the Reverend’s bones at the same time Chillingworth went missing, perhaps sooner if you don’t assume that she became pregnant instantly.”

    Keeping in mind that the story is fiction, it would likely have been based on some knowledge of similar actual situations. Societies have long had proscribed ways of dealing with women who cuckold men because, woman have long been cuckolding men (even the Biblical Story of Jesus’ conception, and the subsequent reactions of Joseph tell us that laws were in place to deal with just such an occurrence – and indication that it really was all that rare).

    To interject a little biology into probably real-life scenarios like that into which Hester “fell”, it is well known that in the days around ovulation, a woman will have a higher sex-drive. It is during that time that women are more likely to initiate sex, and also to cheat (even hooking up with complete strangers who happen to put out a highly masculine vibe) on their relationships.

    So, if we can assume that at least a few instance of women in Puritan social groupings/communities did, in fact, end up pregnant either outside of wedlock or by another man not their husband (as men often had to travel and be away for significant amounts of time) it is actually quite likely that they did end up pregnant “instantly”. Perhaps after just one illicit encounter (which is often true, yet today).

    There would have been a lack of cads hanging around Puritan communities, and women could just go down to the local bar and look for guys to hook-up with. In fact, the strictures of Puritan society would have greatly limited a woman’s access to men in general. People would have noticed a woman (sans husband) hanging around any man in town, and been highly suspicious – except, of course, if the man happen to be a “man of God”. It was probably considered “safe” to let women be alone with the preacher.

    Thus, applying this back to Hawthorne’s “reality-based’ tale, while Rev. Dimmesdale falls quite short of our modern view of what comprises an alpha (cad), he would have been the most “available” man to Hester during the time when she was experiencing her most intense sexual desire (and, of course, ovulating). So, as your quote above suggests, the most probable/believable explanation is that she got horny and jumped his bones, and yes, got pregnant right away.

    Obviously, Hawthorne was well read on HBD nor modern biological knowledge, but he could draw on the accounts of actual situations in order to construct a more believable (to his contemporary audience) story line.

  35. slwerner says:

    Doomed Harlot – ”As I said, a feminist character needn’t be a superhero, devoid of all moral flaws and always bucking the system.”

    True. But I think the general perception of a feminist heroine has become rather tainted by the sheer volume of no-nonsense, kick-ass and take charge, while always being (morally) upright portrayals in pop-culture venues like movies and television. Such portrayals successfully pander to the audiences of grrl-power, female-empowerment, gender-feminists who make a significant portion not only of the audience for those venues, but also a significant portion of Western Society at-large.

    I tried to watch the film version starring Demi Moore a few years back (at home, with my wife. I could only take so much before I became entirely disinterested and annoyed, so I didn’t watch the whole film). My guess (based on some fuzzy memory) was that in that version, Hester was portrayed as a much more strong-willed, self-aware and empowered women, who was done a great disservice by a society that was scared of female sexuality and female self-actualization. [Again, this is just a guess, because I actually watched very little of it, so feel free to correct men if I’m off-base].

    My own take on the reality of today is that women don’t want to see a female character who is morally culpable, and who expresses great regret, and seeks redemption (within a “Patriarchal” social environment). I would guess this to be why despite their great grievance with supposed efforts to control female sexuality, and the fact that they could point to Hawthorne’s Hester as emblematic of their struggle, they typically do not (which is also why it isn’t brought up throughout the Manosphere, which, let’s face it, is largely reactionary to feminism’s influences). I’d bet that more feminists would embrace Hester had she openly defied the Puritans, and, better still, have been put to death for her “sin”.

  36. Ceer says:

    I don’t see refusing to name one’s co-conspirator as any sort of moral fortitude. Particularly when you’re dealing with a moral offense, rather than a legal one. The out-of wedlock child will not have the benefit of knowing his true father, but this doesn’t seem to bother the women who want to excuse this sort of thing. In the book, Hester certainly is lucky to have a man who will stick by her even though she cheated on him, had a child by another man, refuses to name the other man, wants him to raise said other man’s child as his own, and has no legal responsibility to do so.

    To any real man, this is a very special form of “I hate you” reserved to punish only the most morally disciplined men.

  37. greyghost says:

    Outstanding comment Ceer. It doesn’t amaze mae as it used to seeing these women here to make something of this cheating bitch wife. The women in the article is no different than the women in the videos. (Dalrock knows it too) It is dresed up to look realy neat and intellectual but it is just a story of some unfaithful slut being held up as literature for teaching kids . Now we have a generation of women seeing a slut as a hero.

  38. slwerner says:

    ”It is dresed up to look realy neat and intellectual but it is just a story of some unfaithful slut being held up as literature for teaching kids . Now we have a generation of women seeing a slut as a hero.”

    It seems to be as much as anything an attempt at “slut norming”. If the worst of all “slut-outcomes” comes to be seen as routine and expected (and, perhaps even forgivable), then everything else short of that outcome comes to be considered, in relative terms, less egregious.

    I don’t watch daytime television, so I don’t really know; bit I’d guess that if the show focuses on a woman who is cheating on her partner, and is bringing him on to “confess” to him publicly (actually, greatly shaming and humiliating him as a vengeful act – not a contrite one), the audience of women (and manginas) is always greatly in support of the women. The man can likely only appeal to them if he willing accepts his wife cheating, and either forgives her for it, or acquiesces to her continued cheating on him.

    Am I right?

    If such can be portrayed as the norm, then it can be more effectively argued that men should be more accepting and forgiving of their women who manage to keep their infidelity “private”.

  39. J says:

    It is dresed up to look realy neat and intellectual but it is just a story of some unfaithful slut being held up as literature for teaching kids . Now we have a generation of women seeing a slut as a hero.

    It’s actually not taught all that much anymore. The theme, sin and redemption, isn’t one that modern kids relate to much and the langauge is ponderous and hard to read.

  40. Stephenie Rowling says:

    I will say that the feminist reading of the Scarlet Letter is a broken Aesop, they do blame the strict puritanical society and the limiting options of women like Hester, assuming that if Hester would had been able to divorce, work she would choose a man she was really attracted to because she didn’t needed the support of a husband hence she wouldn’t had sinned…well women can divorce and earn their own money now and certainly can choose any man they want to have sex with…what is the excuse for cuckoldry now? Oh wait “it felt right”, “he is not the same man I married to”, “It just happened” …

  41. John says:

    Stone them all to death.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne was a “White Knight”, and ever since that damned “Required Reading” book came out and then forced upon every “American Literature” class ever held, adulterous behavior has been increasingly tolerated. All these goodly “Cafeteria Christians” love forgiving that “death by stoning” sin, but in the main still are pro death penalty for murder. Talk about “pick and choose” religiousity!

    Why is it that once one commits a murder they are forever referred to as a murderer, but an adulterer of adulteress doesn’t bear that stigma much past the end of the immediate consequence (if at all)? Because people are damned hypocrites and they have made themselves gods in their own image.

  42. J says:

    Doomed Harlot – ”As I said, a feminist character needn’t be a superhero, devoid of all moral flaws and always bucking the system.”

    J–The novel wouldn’t work if Hester were devoid of moral flaws. It only works if she sins and is redeemed.

    slwerner– I watch the film version starring Demi Moore … Hester was portrayed as a much more strong-willed, self-aware and empowered women, who was done a great disservice by a society that was scared of female sexuality and female self-actualization].

    J–If that is so, then the film did Hawthorne a huge disservice because the boook really isn’t about sex or self-actualization. It’s about redemption. Hester’s victory is over sin. That the sin was adultery/fornication isn’t really relevant to the point of the story. She could have been a cat burglar and overcome that vice if Hawthorne had been willing to give up the Puritan settting. However, Hawthorne is writing about the flaws of Puritanism from the point of view of a Romantic (like Byron or Keats).
    I think a many are missing his point by attempting to make this a modern work or see modern values in it.

    slwerner–“My own take on the reality of today is that women don’t want to see a female character who is morally culpable, and who expresses great regret, and seeks redemption (within a “Patriarchal” social environment)”

    Actually,she doesn’t. She sort of goes her own way, living with her child in the woods, in nature which is something the Romantics romanticized. She rejects the Puritan mindset of legalism and embraces what Hawthorne felt was a truer Christianity based on charity and good deeds.

    slwerner– they could point to Hawthorne’s Hester as emblematic of their struggle, they typically do not
    J–Probably because girls tend to like English class more than boys do and actually remember years later what the book was about.

  43. J says:

    I will say that the feminist reading of the Scarlet Letter is a broken Aesop….

    I’m guessing based on this comment that you haven’t actually read the book, just saw the teen flick that was very loosely based on it??

    I think DH gave you the “feminist reading” of the book if there is one at all. Hester is the only strong character in the book who reaches redemption. The book is feminist in that it has a strong female character, not in that it excuses her sin.

  44. Stephenie Rowling says:

    “I’m guessing based on this comment that you haven’t actually read the book, just saw the teen flick that was very loosely based on it??”

    When I meant the feminist reading I meant other feminists, go and do a google search in feminism and the Scarlet Letter, I haven’t watched Easy A yet, but they also reference this as the true message of the story when you read the essays about this, also the movie with Demi Moore is feminist sanctioned because of this new interpretation. I read the book of course, but I don’t remember it at this point I found every character so unlikeable that I really didn’t took any message from it, except get out of my head. Is a weakness I have if I don’t like anyone the story or the message get lost.
    Not sure why the question if I read it or not to make sure I know what the message from feminism reading is. Feminists have a habit of taking any “fallen woman” and turn her into a hero no matter what, weren’t Jezebel and Lilith biblical villainesses? What do they mean for feminist nowadays?

  45. J says:

    D–Alpha is in the eye of the beholder.

    J–That’s one reason I really hate these terms.

    D– I call him alpha because he was the local celebrity.

    J–I can understand that. The definition of alpha shifts depending on who you talk to. Roissy would call omega because he only gets laid once. I find myself agreeing with Looking Glass. Dimmesdale is a big, vacillatiing priss. I actually blurted out in Am. Lit in high school that I wanted him to either “Shit or get off the pot.” I was that frustrated by having to read his constant vacillations

  46. slwerner says:

    J – “Actually,she doesn’t. She sort of goes her own way, living with her child in the woods, in nature which is something the Romantics romanticized. She rejects the Puritan mindset of legalism and embraces what Hawthorne felt was a truer Christianity based on charity and good deeds.”

    yes, and no.

    She does chose to live alone with her daughter outside of town, but, still wears the “A” on her clothing. Even years later, after having returned to Europe for a considerable amount of time, upon her return to Massachusetts, she resumes wearing the “A”.

    To me, it is a sign that she accepts her sin, and is not trying to run from it or hide it.

    In this, she doesn’t meet the ideals of what many modern feminists are looking for in a heroic figure. To them, they would prefer to attack the oppressive social order which would label a woman with her sins, and expect her to be repentant for them. It is why we constantly see them agitating about the supposed double-standard of “sluts and studs”. The obvious remedy for the perceived double-standard would be for women to start to reject promiscuous men (as men reject, for relationships, promiscuous women). Instead, what they are obviously after is to force men to accept, praise, and value female promiscuity the way woman (often) do of men’s.

    We aren’t seeing the phenomenon of “Slut Walks” because the women involved are trying to keep their sexuality a private matter. They want to be able to flaunt it in front of men (especially), and get in the face of “Puritanical” views of female sexuality.

    Woman who might be inclined to accept that some sexualized behaviors of women are not acceptable (for example, acknowledging that cuckolding a husband, or getting pregnant outside of wedlock are poor choices) aren’t going to be embraced by gyno-centric feminists the way a woman who flaunts her sexual “sins” and refuses to acquiesce to expected social behavior vis-à-vis such “sins” will be.

    While I don’t watch the day-time fare like Springer and Maury Povich, I hear enough about the “content” to know that if a woman is there telling her husband/boyfriend that she’s been cheating on him and is leaving him for the other guy, she will be greeted with a chorus of “You go grrl!”’. Which stands in some contrast to the sympathy shown to those women who have been outed in their cuckoldry/paternity fraud, and who become suddenly “sorry” (often after having been defiant). They feel for her in that such a woman is experiencing “female-disempowerment” (having to accept guilt and shame), unlike the openly defiant (former example) woman, who’s obviously being celebrated for her “empowerment” and “self-actualization”.

    Men, even those who know nothing of the MRM or the Manosphere, do tend to notice and take umbrage at such behavior on the part of women.

  47. J says:

    Steph,

    As a defender of literature, I’d suggest you (and some others) read at least the Cliff Notes on this book and avoid the movies if you want to make any judgements about the novel. I’d also suggest you look into symbolism, Romanticism (as a literary movement–not the Harlequin kind) and Puritanism. Much of what you and some others are saying about the book is really sort of irrelevant and based upon a poor understanding of the author’s point, as well as trying to apply modern values that would never have occured to author to this book.

    Yes, this book has a strong and dynamic female protagonist, and “feminists” would like like that. The rest of the stuff you are talking about just simply isn’t a part of the book, and anyone–feminist or MRA –who thinks it’s there is talking out his or her hat.

  48. Dalrock says:

    @slwerner

    My own take on the reality of today is that women don’t want to see a female character who is morally culpable, and who expresses great regret, and seeks redemption (within a “Patriarchal” social environment)

    To which J replied:

    Actually,she doesn’t. She sort of goes her own way, living with her child in the woods, in nature which is something the Romantics romanticized. She rejects the Puritan mindset of legalism and embraces what Hawthorne felt was a truer Christianity based on charity and good deeds.

    Then J said in her very next comment:

    Hester is the only strong character in the book who reaches redemption. The book is feminist in that it has a strong female character, not in that it excuses her sin.

  49. Stephenie Rowling says:

    “Yes, this book has a strong and dynamic female protagonist, and “feminists” would like like that. The rest of the stuff you are talking about just simply isn’t a part of the book, and anyone–feminist or MRA –who thinks it’s there is talking out his or her hat.”

    I don’t disagree with your POV, but this is not what mainstream is teaching, which is my point. The feminist tinted glasses are reinterpreting the text the same way they do with everything they can get their hands on with a female lead. You are a minority in your take, it might be the right one, but it doesn’t matter, new generations upon new generations are seeing a completely different message sent.

  50. J says:

    SLW–To me, it is a sign that she accepts her sin, and is not trying to run from it or hide it.

    Exactly! Read some of my other comments. That’s the theme of the novel.

    SLW–In this, she doesn’t meet the ideals of what many modern feminists are looking for in a heroic figure.

    I think we sort of agree. Read my post to Stephanie. (I think I posted it while you were writing your post)It’s fallacious to try to apply a modern frame to this book. The invitation to the Slutwalk really is not present in the novel. It’s way beyond anything Hawthorne wanted to say.

  51. J says:

    D–I think you are misreading my objection to swlerner’s comment. I agree strongly that she sins and finds redemption–but NOT within the context of Puritanism. She embodies Hawthorne’s rejection of Puritanism in favor of a gentler, more forgiving Christianity that accomodates his Romanticism. In some senses, the book is more about that personal struggle than it is about the characters who do tend, as you point out, to be rather one-dimensional. They are symbols as opposed to fully developed characters. The book is an allegorical social commentary on the remnants of New England Puritanism that the author was brought up with and rejects.

    [D: Solomon II wrote about the same thing. But I’m A Gooood Perrrrson!]

  52. Legion says:

    My Name Is Jim says:
    August 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm
    “… it’s simply up to men to read the tea leaves and know when not to trust them…”

    When their lips are moving.

  53. J says:

    this is not what mainstream is teaching

    I’m actually not aware that the mainstream is teaching much about this book at all. High school English classes, outside of a few Honors programs, no longer teach it. It’s too hard. There’s a mildly juicy sex story, but you hace to wade through tons of morality and fancy talk to get to it. I doubt that the book has significant influence on anyone. Even I, a confirmed book lover, didn’t see the Demi Moore version. It tanked if I recall. If sure the reaction of the gals on Maury to this would be, “Hester who? Don’t she live in the projects on 92ns Street?”

  54. slwerner says:

    J – ” I think we sort of agree. Read my post to Stephanie. (I think I posted it while you were writing your post)It’s fallacious to try to apply a modern frame to this book. The invitation to the Slutwalk really is not present in the novel. It’s way beyond anything Hawthorne wanted to say.”

    And, do read Stephenie’s replay back to you:

    ” I don’t disagree with your POV, but this is not what mainstream is teaching, which is my point. The feminist tinted glasses are reinterpreting the text the same way they do with everything they can get their hands on with a female lead. You are a minority in your take, it might be the right one, but it doesn’t matter, new generations upon new generations are seeing a completely different message sent.”

    It is impossible (at this point) to separate the original intent of the author from how it is being re-interpreted today.

    Hawthorne’s was the deeply philosophical take (her acceptance of her guilt, as opposed to the personal destruction brought on by the hidden guilt of Dimmesdale, and the blood-lust for vengeance by the husband – who swore her to secrecy that he was her husband, and took on the assumed name of Chillingworth just to seek that vengeance – who were both consumed, physically and spiritually, by the “sins” they refused to face up to).

    Today’s take is that the Puritan society is still reflected in today’s “Patriarchy”, and represses women (sexually) while allowing men a sort of sexual “free roaming”; thus, little has changed since the 17th century for women, and the fight must be continued to free women to live as they wish, free from the scorn of “slut-shaming”.

    Feminists make vague reference to The Scarlet Letter, as being emblematic of the oppression of women (selectively), but do not typically try to delve into the actual text, as they (at least some of them) know all too well, that such is NOT the theme of the novel, nor is Hester a martyr for the cause (she is a repentant women, much more than she is a defiant one).
    The truth about Hester would likely be the same sort of let-down for today’s women as is the revelation that the guy they were ready to heap scorn upon is “not the father!”

  55. J says:

    D–Your response to my last post, while clever, has no relationship to what I actually said. I’m not arguing that Hester is a good character. I’m giving you some literary background that you are chosing to ignore because it provides an understanding of the book that conflicts with your thesis.

  56. J says:

    It is impossible (at this point) to separate the original intent of the author from how it is being re-interpreted today.

    Perhaps, but I really hate it when people decide to put words into an author’s mouth. It’s a pet peeve of mine, actually. The author is not responsible for how others may choose to interpret his/her work hundreds of years later, and any literary work is open to misinterpretation.

    At any rate, It was fun discusssing the book with someone who does understand the author’s intent, so thanks!

  57. Anonymous says:

    Second video… oh, HELL, yes! ‘Ho done messed it all up.

  58. Kai says:

    “Perhaps, but I really hate it when people decide to put words into an author’s mouth. It’s a pet peeve of mine, actually. The author is not responsible for how others may choose to interpret his/her work hundreds of years later, and any literary work is open to misinterpretation.”
    It’s irritating, but relevant.
    If you want to study a book, better to look at what the author said.
    If you want to study the cultural impact of a book, then what the author actually said matters little compared to what people believe was said.

  59. Pingback: Game and the Classics « Blogging Bellita

  60. Dalrock says:

    @J

    Perhaps, but I really hate it when people decide to put words into an author’s mouth. It’s a pet peeve of mine, actually. The author is not responsible for how others may choose to interpret his/her work hundreds of years later, and any literary work is open to misinterpretation.

    I’m curious why you referred me to the summary of Wikipedia for the “died at sea” assumption. Were you using this as evidence that it was correct, or just corroborating that it is widely accepted even though no one seems to be able to locate it in the text?

  61. somedood says:

    Just thought I would bring these to your attention:

    Fly-By-Night Nuptials: A Woman’s Defense Of Starter Marriages
    http://glo.msn.com/relationships/fly-by-night-nuptials-1533791.story?GT1=49006

    Wedlock Unlocked: An Inside Look at Open Marriage
    http://glo.msn.com/relationships/fly-by-night-nuptials-1533791.story?GT1=49006#!stackState=0__%2Frelationships%2Fwedlock-unlocked-1533987.story

  62. cane caldo says:

    Started me on a YT “you are NOT the father” kick. Best one I found–not ghetto; not trailer; pure hamster:

    I love the backstage portion at the end.

  63. J says:

    D,

    It’s been years since I’ve read the book, but my recollection is that Hester and Dimmesdale thought Chillingworth died at sea. (I do have vivid recall of a discussion in high school English as to whether or not Hester was an aduIteress or just a fornicator. Our teacher said that anything out of marriage was adultery in Puritan times, but I don’t buy that.)
    I would assume that the Wiki article is correct because of the constant re-editing allowed on the site, but errors of course are still possible. OTOH, I find Wikipedia to be surprisingly accurate where facts are involved. It’s when there are differences of opinon and Wiki-wars result (as in the constant, highly politicized re-editing of articles on Israel and Palestine) that things get sticky there. I’d assume that enough college lit majors are using WIki as a starting point for papers on the novel that that they keep each other honest.

  64. J says:

    D,

    You can find SparksNotes (similar to CliffNotes online) for free, as well as study guides, synopses and other references for just about any literary work. I feel pretty certain you can find the answer to your question with just a little bit of research. You could even read the book. I feel confident that the answer to your question would be in the first or second chapter as it is an important part of the novel’s exposition. I do feel confident that Chillingworth was believed to be dead by Hester and Dimmesdale and that it is actually in the text, not something that posters are making up.

  65. slwerner says:

    J – ”my recollection is that Hester and Dimmesdale thought Chillingworth died at sea. (I do have vivid recall of a discussion in high school English as to whether or not Hester was an aduIteress or just a fornicator.”

    An interesting conundrum – from the modern perspective. Yet, entirely irrelevant to the time and setting of the story. Hester was married in the eyes of the church, and thus the community. Therefore, any sexual activity with another man would have been considered “adultery” irrespective of any reasonable belief that her husband was dead. If she would have been declared a widow, it might have been different, depending on if they maintained a belief that widows were still considered married to their deceased husbands up until the moment they were re-wed to another man. As I understand it, there may have even been times wherein a widow was not allowed to remarry at all, and would have been considered to remain the wife of her dead husband until she too died (perhaps due to the relative abundance of women compared to men due to the higher mortality rate for young men).

    That said, Hawthorne chose that particular sin not to take issue with a patriarchal (sexual) oppression of women (the novels imagined utility for many modern feminists), nor to highlight issues of infidelity, cuckoldry, out-of-wedlock-births, nor any related issues. He chose that scenario because it allowed a vehicle to contrast the subsequent actions of three different “players” in the resultant situation, and use that to point out the issues he had with Protestants “hard-line” against (certain) sinners, essentially “marking” them for life.

    Key to making this point was Hawthorne’s rendition of the contriteness and acceptance of her guilt and shame shown by Hester, juxtaposed to the consuming hidden sin, guilt and shame of Dimmesdale, and the consuming hatred, lust for revenged, and outright deceptiveness of Prynne (a.k.a. Chillingworth).

    The use of an out-of-wedlock birth by a married woman whose husband was not around was useful in that it recreated an circumstance wherein the sin of Hester was plainly obvious, yet the sin of the father could remain concealed – and arguably equal “sin”, for which he would have to bear no public scorn nor other potential public repercussions – highlighting the duplicity of the Puritanical response.

    Perhaps a better perspective to take on the modern (mis)use of the Scarlet Letter would be to see how adultery is treated under strict Sharia Law. In reality, both men and women can, and are, put to death for adultery (at least the men who have sex with another man’s wife – cheating husbands seem to get a free-pass so long as the woman is not also married).

    It might be logical to argue against the barbarity of such harsh punishment for a sin that is far too “human”, yet, we typically only hear (via the press) about the women being punished, and this, in turn, is twisted into a condemnation of the patriarchal sexual oppression of women under Sharia Law. This becomes dishonest in that is suggests only women suffer consequences.

    This is similar to the way in which feminists misuse The Scarlet Letter, suggesting that only women suffer, ignoring that the same sexual sin that “labeled” Hester also consumed and destroyed two men (who refused to “deal with it” as Hester did).

  66. J says:

    slw,

    Great post. I particularly like/agree with your second and third paragraphs on the juxtaposition of the three main characters (and the philosophical positions they represent) which is really, as you point out, the crux of the novel. All I would really add is the novel’s allusion to the Anne Hutchinson heresy case which I feel influenced the choice of having a heroine vs. a hero (and therefore the adultery as the choice of sin).

  67. Pingback: The missing fear | Dalrock

  68. Pingback: How we came to embrace illegitimacy. | Dalrock

  69. Themistocles says:

    As far as Chillingworth’s going missing, in the past a presumed widow had to wait a year. Hester was still an adulteress.

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