Flaws Worth A Scarlet Letter…

I have many flaws.

It’s a fact. I will never deny it.

Many are those typical of a teenager. The I-was-procrastinating-and-therefore-didn’t-have-time-to-do-my-homework flaw, the oops-I-forgot-to-send-you-that flaw, and the I-totally-have-no-idea-how-to-do-anything-in-my-life flaw.

However, there is one flaw that I have that may not be as evident as the others.

I guess my greatest flaw that basically encompasses my other flaws is that I can not purposefully express my true self. In other wards, I often find myself concealing my feelings from others out of fear, creating a kind of barrier that suppresses my thoughts, beliefs, and aspirations. The world has thrown a lot of curve balls at me. I’ve experienced so much hate, ambition, disappointment, and pain as I took my first steps into society as a young, innocent child to find that the protected sanctuary my parents had created was no where near as scary as the real world. I guess it mostly started when I was in elementary school where my teacher would compare me to the status of my parents, criticize my abilities, punish anything that seemed too “intelligent,” and my classmates would leave me out and make fun of me. As a result, they shaped who I am today. Too scared, too sensitive, too unsure.

But I believe that they also helped to create who I will one day become. Now someone who thinks a lot (sometimes too much) about the world around, the people and the meaning of life, who is very sensitive and personally affected by even the slightest shift in emotion of others (the subtlest gestures, facial expressions, change in tone), and who often secretly sacrifices personal aspirations for the happiness of others, to a mature, strong human being who will gain the strength to reveal when time prevails and overcome the fears of incorrect expression that bind and harden.

The safeguard that I created to hide my emotions often came with consequences. One vivid memory/quote has always lingered inside of me. It was said by one of my friends who one day suddenly and unexpectedly exploded with anger. She looked me straight in the eye and yelled, “How would you understand! You don’t have any feelings!” To this day I don’t know what about me caused her to have such a strong reaction. The words bit into my heart, but also showed me how I really seemed to others, often times concealing and unsociable. After this encounter, though, I think I actually grew. I came to acknowledge my shortcomings.

As I encounter my flaws one by one and chip away my hard shell, I will always strive towards and try to be the best, true me on the inside and the outside.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Condemnation or Condonation?

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a wonderfully molded novel intricately woven with mystical and fantastical circumstances. It is a novel about a young women who is punished by her strictly Puritan society for her act of adultery: cheating on her own husband. She is forced to wear the letter A for the rest of her life, which constantly reminds her of her awful sins and burns her bosom daily. As the novel unfolds, we are taken into a journey with many twists and turns until finally we end at a bittersweet ending. However, Hawthorne concludes in a very vague and mysterious manner. Did he all in all condemn or condone the adultery of Hester Pyrnne? What is he trying to tell or show us? Let us find out.

Condemnation: Throughout the novel Hawthorne emphasizes the pain that comes from what the Puritans call Hester’s “sin.” She is imprisoned, forced to stand on the town scaffold in front of “a thousand unrelenting eyes” (The Market Place), and “[fortify] herself to encounter the stings and venomous stabs of public contumely” (The Market Place) for most of her life. The most torturous pains experienced, though, are the guilt she and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the man who played a role in Hester’s adultery, must endure.  The scarlet letter A that Hester is bestowed upon brings taunting, self-consciousness, suffering, loneliness, sorrow and altogether “her beauty, the warmth and richness of her womanhood, [departs], like fading sunshine […] and a gray shadow [seems] to fall across her” (The Child at the Brook-Side). Dimmesdale unsuccessfully attempts to purify his body with a bloody scourge, fasting, and night long vigils. He suffers from an unidentifiable disease which causes him to “keep his hand over his heart” (Hester and Pearl) and become increasingly feeble. Even in the end, when everything finally seems as though it will work out, the young couple’s utopian plan to run away back to England to start a new life backfires and instead they are separated from each other into two different worlds for the rest of their lives.

However…

Condonation: Hester and Dimmesdale do forgive each other in conclusion and are able to experience an “exhilarating effect […] of breathing the wild, free atmosphere of an unredeemed, unchristainized, lawless region” (A Flood of Sunshine). They find the courage to reveal their long held secret. Also, Hester and Dimmesdale are blessed with a child, Pearl, who although known as “the demon offspring” (Conclusion) to many of the townspeople, later becomes the “richest heiress of her day […] in the New World” (Conclusion). Personally, both protagonists are able to see changes within themselves. To Hester, “the scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss” (A Flood of Sunshine) and for Dimmesdale, he gains the strength to proudly “[tear] away the ministerial band from before his breast” (Revelation of the Scarlet Letter) and reveal his sorrowful crime in front of all.

I love this scene in The Scarlet Letter that seems to highlight the beautiful resolution of the novel…

“Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor for ever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl’s errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled” (The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter).

So does Hawthorne condemn or condone the adultery of Hester Prynne? I believe that he does both. There will always be consequences for our actions, but forgiveness and grace will always be there to give us another, possibly even better second chance.

Favorite Children’s Story

A new twist to the story of the “Little Red Hen” played out through the life of an irresistibly cute caterpillar.

The heart warming tale of a caterpillar that discovers the true meaning of friendship and perseverance, Charlie: The Caterpillar is definitely one of my most cherished children’s stories and practically a part of my childhood. Who can resist this adorable caterpillar?

As I flip through the pages, the pictures of Charlie spur up past memories of pleasure and delight. What’s so eye-catching are the pictures with their simplicity yet intricacy. They have the power to show special details and express colors that reflect the moods and motives of the book.

Thinking about the pictures, another memory pops into my mind. My parents used to say that Charlie reminded them of me: both chubby and having a fond passion for food (which is still pretty much true to this day). You’re never too old for a children’s story I suppose…

Most importantly though, this book’s seemingly simple moral, masked with innocence and youthful ignorance, is actually quite relevant and deep. Having a very similar plot line to the story of the “Little Red Hen,” the protagonist, Charlie, faces opposition from those around him. Charlie, starting out as a young, innocuous caterpillar just born into society soon becomes cognizant of the detrimental and prejudiced world that he has entered that often judges by outward appearance. Later on though, those that once called him ugly beg for him to come join them after he metamorphoses into a beautiful butterfly. In rudimentary actions, we can see what makes a true friend. One that does not judge you by the way you look and sincerely accepts your true self.

Sadly, even in our real society, many children who first step into their first schools (to them a whole different universe) are shocked at the contrasts between their sheltering homes and the world of discrimination where people don’t always like you “just the way you are” or believe you are “special”.

However, we, you and I and basically anyone else, can learn so much through Charlie. Whenever I am judged, looked down on, or cheated unjustly I will always remember to “look[…] to the left, and […] look[…] to the right, and then […] [go] straight ahead.”

“What is Happiness?” by John Ciardi

    What is happiness? Is it winning a free trip to the most beautiful, exotic island or wearing your rainbow colored rain boots and holding your polka-dotted umbrella in the middle of storm? Is it as simple as tasting a slice of a freshly baked, rich German chocolate cake or getting a warm hug from your closest friend who you haven’t seen for years? Or best of all … no school?

    Happiness is a very subjective term and therefore everyone has a different idea of what makes them happy. As portrayed in the American Dream, many even strive to achieve happiness through stereotypical goals such as gaining wealth, popularity, or excessive possessions.

    Contrastingly from most views however, Ciardi illustrates the flip side or possible consequences of the “happiness” that is prominent within our society in his essay. A sort of apocryphal and ironic happiness that has been promoted and emphasized through various modes of media and marketing and is part of the basis for our whole economy. In Ciardi’s eyes, he sees American commercialism as “hugely dedicated to making us deliberately unhappy” and “not satisfy[ing] desires but [creating] them.” Throughout life, the idea of possession equaling happiness has been engraved into our minds both directly and indirectly. We are told to want and to keep wanting more. Ciardi hopes to warn his readers of this detrimental “happiness” that can cause them to chase unworthy goals. As described by Ciardi, true happiness is in the pursuit of itself and in the idea of becoming not just being. Happiness is not something that is attained effortlessly, as many industries claim.

    I agree with Ciardi’s ideas. For me, I see ungratifying pursuits of happiness practically everywhere I turn. I often find even myself unconsciously striving to attain trivial goals. You could say that I’m a typical, normal teenager. I guess a little too normal for my unconscious self that is inundating with yearnings constantly.

‘Maybe if I were a little bit prettier, people wouldn’t hate to be associated with me and look down on me. Maybe if I were a little more social and extroverted, my friends wouldn’t leave me behind all the time. Maybe if I could just open up my heart and soul to the world without having to hide and cower away, I could finally be acknowledged for who I really am and not be underestimated.’

The essence of these thoughts themselves is not what is bad. What is harmful is when we establish these thoughts into our actual paths and overall goals to happiness. Ciardi puts it simply…

“By all means let the happiness market sell us minor satisfactions and even minor follies so long as we keep them in scale and but them out of spiritual change. I am no customer for either Puritanism or asceticism. But drop any real spiritual capital at those bazaars, and what you come home to will be your own poorhouse.”

    Sadly, as emphasized by Ciardi, unfulfilling happiness is ubiquitous throughout our society. It easily conquers our minds and twists its way into our hearts. However, through understanding and effort we can alter this prominent view and sculpt it into something else that is fulfillingly beautiful. I hope that together, you and I, will be able to say at the ends of our lives that we really experienced true happiness. A worthy, unforgettable, changing happiness.

 

 

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