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:
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?
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?
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.