Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Scarlet Letter


Had been away from Classics for a while, so picked up this one, knowing for sure it will keep me good company in the days to come. But didn't anticipate such a long run; took me almost whole of 5 months to actually finish it. Ofcourse the vacation intervened, but still, it wasn’t as if I couldn’t read then.

Had conflicting reviews when I mentioned to friends about the book, as I was reading it, and most of them not very flattering. So knew I was not in for a veritable treat. But told myself I wouldnt give it  up, but find out for myself what left the slight distaste, and discover why it had a scandalish hood all over it, over the ages.

Well, the book  has been universally certified as ‘morbidly intense’, and so was it. It has flashes of good prose, where you find yourself glide into the dark corridors of the churches and walk down the streets of an old England puritan village, led by the elaborate description of Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, at times the writing tends to become tedious and excessively overpowering, that to ease oneself from its grip becomes an effort.

The story is about Hester Prynne, who is made to carry the burden, wearing a scarlet red, embroidered hologram, on her dress, everyday of her life, as redemption for an act of adultery committed. It screams out to the world the debauchery she allowed herself to be immersed in, symbolically and is meant to put her to abject shame and misery. Two other central characters, being Rev.Arthur Dimmesdale who goes through a phase of self-afflicted torment, ridden by guilt and shame; and Roger Chillingworth, who ironically posseses some chilling attributes, which enables him to be the diabolic co-tormentor of the former.

Issues as adultery, sin, shame, guilt and redemption are handled with elaborate justifications and its ramifications, as observed in  the puritan era, but they comes across as too severe and  melodramatic. The reader is all along made to sympathise with Hester Prynne, the author trying hard to convince that she or the act was never ever a heinous crime. So what was the whole book about, one is left to wonder. It is an attempt to portray an era, a section sliced from the past, and elaborate on the lives, morals and values, people preached and in most instances practised too, I would think.

Back to our home ground, going through Rajaji’s adaptation of the Mahabharatha, and completely overwhelmed by the number of characters and anecdotes woven and all tied up together so well, and of which many of us (I think/assume) are not very familiar with. The main plot and characters remain to a certain extent clear in memory, but there is so much more to it. What a tremendous script!

It rained. It is tantamount to occurrence of hailstorms in India. So in for some showers, which would play hide and seek this November. Aren't we glad!

8 comments:

siva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
siva said...

Scarlet Letter was written at a time when adultery was considered a heinous crime. Naturally, the book was taboo. The author's attempts at trying to understand the heroine's mind was thought scandalous.
Mahabharatha of course is the epic.
Dharmar's righteousness, Arjuna's bravery and Beema's feisty nature recede to the background in the face of Karnan's racking sense of abandonment.And Dhirudarashtran burning in his own hell of jealousy . . . a humane story

Reflections said...

I remember studying a portion of it in school and finding it soooo boring. The question & answers were a pain really;-D

It rained;-o....it rained in Oman tooo, hamara number kab aayaega;-(

Dee said...

I have heard about the book when doing literature but have not read it! Nice post Vaidegi!

Mathai said...

I've heard about this book but unfortunately never got round to reading it.

vaidegi j said...

@ s

yes, the humaneness which is threaded all along the narration is what makes it so endearing, i guess.

@ Nancy

:) see what the pain has yielded?! pages and posts of pure unadulterated, entertainment to millions across the world!! ;)

vaidegi j said...

@ Dee

glad my review triggered memories! :)

@ mathai

welcome here! :)

vaidegi j said...

KParthasarathi has left a new comment on your post "The Scarlet Letter ":

Nice review Vaidegi.I haven't read the former.I would say Rajaji's books on the two epics are the only one read by one and all.Simple in style it captures all the intrinsic beauty of the epics.


@ kp

not sure why ur comment didn't show up. sir, ur comments are always valued, and thanks.
Yes truly said, though capturing the essence of an epic of such mammoth proportions, must've been a tough job.