Today, as I was studying for my 500 exam (the exam from hell), I was revisiting the 60 some odd novels, poems, plays, and other theoretical texts. I came to one of my favorites, The Scarlet Letter, it’s novels like this one that really remind me why I love literature so much.
A simple re-reading of my class notes almost made me cry. I have mentioned this quote on my blog before,
Hatred, by a quiet and gradual transformation, will even be transformed to love.
When we think of Hawthorne, from a theoretical standpoint, he is most certainly a deconstructionist. He loves to present binaries, in this case the binary of love and hate, and then deconstruct them.
Hester embodies this deconstruction within The Scarlet Letter as she comes to know love, a deeper love, through such a hateful symbol, one adorned on her breast, the scarlet A.
And so, throughout the novel, she does quietly deconstruct what is meant to represent hate, as she is scorned and mocked and even isolated, she uses all of these occurences to love deeper and fuller. In the end, the opposition is destroyed because Hester demonstrates that love and hate are not as different as one might think. In fact, what symbolizes hate transforms into the greatest act of love for Hester, a mother, a seamstress, and a servant to her community.
Novels have a way of bringing ideas forward, a way of showing the inner mechanisms of our own lives, when I think about love–how I have truly come to love in this life I certainly do not turn to the notion of hate immediately. However, if I stop and examine how I have come to know the process and act of showing love, it certainly becomes very clear that hate has defined this for me very much so.
There have been many instances in my life when hate has been present, where hate is still present, where I have been adorned with my own A of sorts. I have been pushed aside, isolated, treated unfairly, hurt, and unfairly punished for no wrongdoing. Although these experiences have hurt, it would be more hurtful to think of their absence in my life. How hurtful would it be to never truly understand the totality of love because I cannot ascribe meaning, in the way I can with these occurances, for lack of knowing what it is not–hate.
In this sense, hate and love are seen in likeness versus opposition. And together in their likeness, they create a sort of meaning and higher understanding of both. As I grow to understand the hurt I have experienced, and we all have and will experience in our lives, I know how to better love. I know how to better serve those whom I love. I know how to be a better mother. I know how to be a better woman. This is the lesson of Hester Prynne.
a whit who sometimes needs literature.