Friday, April 2, 2010

The walk of cultural shame

I heard this npr program about The Scarlet Letter the other day. 

I read Hawthorne's novel back in high school, but somehow I never truly comprehended some of the overarching themes.  I suppose that's why it's important to keep an open mind to literature discussions throughout one's life.

I doubt it was due to my English teacher, however.  It's true that there are some additional things my Junior year English teacher could have mentioned, but I digress. 

I do think the concept of shame and sin are difficult concepts for a teenager to understand.  Granted, sometimes teens are underestimated, but there is life experience that can be necessary to gain true perspective (in my opinion).

Needless to say, on this program, the commentators compared the society of the Puritans with our current society.  One of the things my English teacher missed was that Hawthorne was comparing his society with the Puritans as well. 

I wouldn't have thought that we had a great deal in common. 

The Puritans were a sober bunch, not celebrating holidays, not listening to music, strict laws on the Sabbath.  Most Americans have lavish celebrations, and there are few businesses closed on Sundays or holidays any more

But with recent alleged celebrity follies and their public apologies, perhaps there is more in common than initially appears.  Is there a reason we (as a society) need to focus on other people's mistakes?  That we need to feel righteous indignation?  That we feel we need these celebrities to both apologize, and to suffer?  I'm not excusing any mistakes, but is the rancor and venegence really necessary?

I simply agree with the npr panelist about the parallels between that world and some parts of our current world. 

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