As much as I detested the awful Demi Moore movie named The Scarlet Letter, (notice I didn’t say it was The Scarlet Letter) it did give me something to think about:
How did the relationship between Hester and Arthur develop?
I certainly think the clumsy, lusty way that the movie depicted it with it’s built in “Roger is dead, so it’s okay” excuse was not the way it worked. But what did happen between the two Puritans to lead them down this treacherous path?
What little we can guess about a prequel must be based in what we already know:
- Hester would not give up Arthur’s identity. She protected him with a fierce tenacity that seems to speak of a dedication and love for him that overrides any selfish desire for revenge.
- Neither party attempted a rekindling of their romance during the seven years from the beginning of the novel to their ultimate meeting. This could be for several reasons, obviously, as stated before Hester didn’t want to compromise Aurthur. Fear on both parts also could have been the motivating factor. Or, shame towards each other could have kept them apart.
- When they finally meet after seven years in the woods, their reconnection grows modestly, and through words, not actions.
- Hester never loved Roger. She reminds him of this when he visits her in the jail cell, and he does not hold that against her, but admits that he “betrayed her budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay.”
Here’s my, admittedly over-romantic, guess: Hester and Arthur developed a relationship first out of her respect for him and his willingness to assist her in her need (because I don’t know about you, but if your old, ugly, husband that you didn’t love sent you to live in a foreign land and didn’t come along, you might be happy to receive a hand from a friend every once in a while.) I think it grew to mutual admiration and love. Yes, love.
More importantly, here’s why I don’t think it was some overly-passionate, lust-filled tromp in the woods: If that had been the case there would be no reason for Hester to remain quiet about his identity. Rash actions lead to mare rash actions, and her deliberate silence was certainly well-pondered. Also, neither character, despite how they changed throughout the novel, ever seemed the type to act on impulse, but instead showed a quiet, methodical, careful, and steadfast manner in their decisions.
Not that I condone their decision. No, no, no. Neither love, nor lust can defend them against the wrong they chose. But this novel has left me thinking more about the “what happened before page 1” than most novels leave me with “what happened after p. 264.”