The Scarlet Letter

Single motherhood makes her so angry...

Single motherhood makes her so angry...

I sat down to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne about two months ago.

It has taken that long for many reasons. I wasn’t that excited about it. Hawthorne’s writing was extremely long and descriptive just to cover the simplest action. I guess he thought paragraphs were a sin. And ultimately because the subject matter bore me; it was lacking in explosions and gunfights.

But I read it anyway.

For those who don’t know, or don’t care to remember, the tale revolves around single mother Hester Prynne. Condemned to wear the scarlet letter, a mark of adulterous shame, she refuses to give the name of the father of her daughter, Pearl. Things take a slight turn when her legal husband, Roger Chillingworth, returns to haunt her and vows to find the identity of her lover.

I’d call the next part a spoiler, but the story was published in 1850.

Hester’s lover turns out to be Arthur Dimmesdale, the local preacher. Far from a condemning man, Arthur is physically weakened and eventually dies from the very guilt he feels for his actions and leaving Hester to suffer alone.

Now in light of modern politically charged themes, there’s a few things to really consider and think about. Most people focus on the hypocrisy of the situation, how the spiritual leader of the town is half the cause of its shame. Of course, Cracked recently came out with an article which discussed Puritan sex historically. Number four. It puts things in perspective, but doesn’t necessarily contradict the story.

But they might miss out on the other questions to consider. Political and modern questions.

First is the mixing of church and state. Today, such a thing would quickly be revolted against. For the U.S. these two organizations are segregated by our first amendment. But this book takes place during a time long before the Constitution came into existence. The collusion of government and the church is common here, and the laws reflect the church’s strongly defined set of morals.

There is also the government’s involvement in the family. Today, the involvement of the state in child rearing has grown considerably. Between the ages of 6 to 18, many children spend eight hours a day, five days a week in publicly provided schooling. Thus it appears that the state’s involvement is considerably less in the book than what it is today. But the Governor does see fit to question whether Hester is truly a proper role model for her daughter Pearl, and whether Pearl should be taken from her.

It creates a lot of food for thought when applied to modern political debates.

I really wonder what the line is between general fiction and the classics that we are all forced to read in high school. Is the message in The Scarlet Letter important? Definitely. Did it take so many words to tell? No. I feel as though one of the reasons so many teachers drag their students through these longer-than-they-must-be novels is a sense of “reward” we’re supposed to feel after completing it. There’s a fine line between when description becomes overbearing and long and when it’s just right.

Is that it? Do we just read these classics to feel some sense of accomplishment? I’m fortunate in that a lot of my teachers instead used anthologies of various short stories to convey the lessons and ideas. Short stories do not have much time for fluff, so they tend to deliver just the right about of description and get on with it instead of filling their reader’s minds with “descriptive riddles.”

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One Resolution to Rule Them All

I really hope that's a finger...

I really hope that's a finger...

So I slapped together a new resolution I call the ‘Goodbye 20s.’ I think the joy of the 30s is that they’re great earning years while I still have my general youth.

So I slapped together a short list that will grow throughout the next month. I like a balance of things. Some physical, body building stuff. Better finances. A few writing successes. A few social ones as well.

But I have a hard time coming up with things that are really “living it up.” Career successes and financial achievements are nifty. But saying, I don’t know, ‘I went on a sabbatical’ or the like is more ideal.

But it’s enough to get started. Not everything can be done. I’m unlikely to make enough money for the 20 to 30% down payment on a house I want to do (the more I pay now, the less I pay with interest later). But I can diet, work out, write and work to advance my career. Save money for that trip to Las Vegas.

Getting a body like one of these guys would be awesome. But I doubt I could gain that much muscle mass in a year. Before you ask how Chris Hemsworth overtook Ryan Gosling, a shirtless man who commands the respect of other men will always beat a lady killer, regardless of how much he works out.

Anyway, my writing slowed down again because of the release of my works’ production software. This came without warning to my team and I was suddenly up to my neck in work to do. It’s about done and goes live at noon today. I’m really, really looking forward to next week though. I can’t wait for things to go back to normal both at work and with the holidays. People and family demand a lot of time. And I hope to have some to myself to focus on working out, reading and writing.

Expect a review of Prospero Burns next week as well as The Scarlet Letter. Happy New Years!

Anxiety and a New Writing Competition

Unlike its scarlet counter part, the white letter A represents the shame of alcoholism. As in, drunk enough to wear those tights.

Unlike its scarlet counter part, the white letter A represents the shame of alcoholism. As in, drunk enough to wear those tights.

With every day, I begin to realize that the rapid rejection letter that Clarkesworld sent to me was, by far, the most merciful thing a publisher can do.

The waiting is getting to me. I have submitted now eight stories (a combination of shorts and flash) to various publishers. I deal with it by simply writing more, talking with the gents over at the Bolthole’s Shoutbox, or reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. When I finish that, I will be writing a book review of it. No, it’s not Warhammer related, but there’s more to me than slobbering over products by the Black Library.

Moving along, I am probably going to host another writing competition for the holiday season. Figuring a proper theme for it will be interesting as not everyone celebrates Christmas (I have a few international readers who celebrate other things). I’ll probably go for a very open but seasonal theme, as in anything winter related, Christmas or any other major holidays, Emperor’s Day (A 40k term for Christmas), or just New Years.

Also, I’ll probably host dual prizes. At first, I consideredĀ  it being a basic novel from the Black Library for the winner, while the second place would receive a copy of Hammer & Bolter. But I realized that if I want to include non-Warhammer fans, the prizes have to be more diverse. Therefore, this will probably be the last contest involving strictly Black Library prizes.

Had a short break before publishing this and came back with the perfect idea for the writing competition. Stay tuned.