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The Scarlet Letter: The Book Vs. The Movie

1470 words - 6 pages

The Scarlet Letter:  The Book vs. the Movie   

Demi Moore's portrayal of Hester in the movie The Scarlet Letter proved her worth as a feminist actress, which led her to other, more modern female empowerment roles ranging from Striptease to GI Jane.  But in the moviemakers 'attempt to give the story what they might think is a little modern flavor, they barbarously misconstrued the theme, and thus the importance, of a timeless story.  In the novel, there can be little doubt that Hester is a strong person, but the movie made her out to be a martyr for women's rights.  The female empowerment theme of the movie also inevitably led to the characterization of Christians and their ethics as ...view middle of the document...

" Then she is seen storming ahead of Dimmesdale on her own horse.  The movie's Hester is far different from the novel's Hester, who makes her living by sewing.  Sewing was clearly something the moviemakers wanted to get away from because of its connotation as women's work.  Hester didn't even stitch the Scarlet A in the movie.  It was given to her.

In an earlier scene, Hester spies on Dimmesdale while he is skinny dipping in a forest pool.  The somber music and flattering camera angles suggest that he is a very sexy creature.  Needless to say, this role reversal was also done to appeal to women.  By changing the role of women to pursuers and men to sex objects, Hester became a more dominant and powerful character, like a predator stalking her prey.

The empowerment of women is not even an issue in the novel, but it is the main theme in the movie.  In another added scene, Hester even visits some of the tyranny put on women by men back on Brewster Stonehall in the scene where he tries to rape her.  Instead she "rapes" him symbolically by maliciously driving a candlestick, which is similar in size and shape to a penis, into one of his bodily orifices (his eye), chalking one up for the good gals.  Simultaneously, she is proving that she can defend herself without a man.  In the final scene of the movie, Hester jumps up into her wagon with Pearl and proclaims that she is leaving, and Dimmesdale jumps in after her.  She takes the reigns and leads them away to their new life together.  It becomes clear, as the movie progresses, that Hester doesn't need a man for anything other than sexual purposes.

Since the entire movie was centered on the empowerment of women, it was unavoidable that the strict Christian ethics of the time were going to be intensely criticized in the movie's portrayal.  Since feminists think that Christianity supports the oppression of women with its belief in male dominated homes and a male god and messiah, and the apparently minor and even negative roles that women play in the Bible as they wash men's feet or cause man's fall from grace in Eden, it comes as little surprise that the movie made a lawless character from the novel into a role model.  Just as in the novel, the townspeople in the movie believed that Mistress Hibbons was a witch.  But instead of her actually being a suspicious and strange character as in the novel, the moviemakers played an awful game with the audience's emotions.  They took the Salem Witch Trials, an event in American history that horrifies modern Americans, and incorporated it into the movie.  The slave that Hester bought earlier in the movie was named Mituba, and just like in the Salem Witch Trials, she was coerced into claiming that she had been led astray by witches; in this case, Mistress Hibbons and the group of women she affiliated with, which leads to their trial.  But to appeal to the feminist viewers, and to avoid having to call the movie The Scarlet Letter / Salem Witch Trials,...

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