Compare & Contrast

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 7 (2289 words) Published: October 23, 2011
Compare and Contrast paper

After reading a book and then watching the movie based on that book, generally people will say they feel disappointed because the movie lacks its heart and substance. Even though the movie The Scarlet Letter, directed by Roland Joffé, is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, it offers different characters and plot than the novel. However, the book captivates people more. In both, the story takes place in Boston, Massachusetts, in seventeenth century. The Scarlet Letter is about Hester Prynne, a beautiful, young married woman from England who commits adultery with the respected minister Arthur Dimmesdale. When Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth comes to Boston after two years’ absence, he finds his wife has been unfaithful to him, and now has a baby, named Pearl. Furious about the betrayal, Chillingworth plots his revenge. The Puritan society is angry at Hester, and pressures her to confess her lover’s name, but she refuses. To punish her, they constrain her to wear the scarlet letter A. In the movie, Demi Moore stars as the pretty woman who commits adultery, Hester Prynne. Gary Oldman plays the admirable Minister Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth is played by Robert Duvall. The Scarlet Letter of Nathaniel Hawthorne is an amazing novel but Roland Joffé’s movie does not catch the essence of the novel, and the changes in characters and plot alter the message of the novel.

The beginning of the movie is different from the novel and this change changes the message of the book. The beginning in the novel attracts the reader’s attention more. The novel begins at the prison-door, and there is a wild rose-bush outside the portal. In the next scene, one young, beautiful woman is led to the scaffold from the town jail with her infant. Hawthorne states that “This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history” (46). The prison represents the Puritan society and its laws, judgments, and punishments. And outside the prison there is a wild rose-bush. This represents Hester. She is like the rose, beautiful, but out of place. She rejects the Puritan law by having a baby, yet she stays in Boston. She is a wild flower, receiving her punishment, but still strong and brave. Also, the few first chapters of the novel, the readers do not know who the baby’s father is, increasing the readers’ curiosity, as they wonder who Hester’s lover is. Starting the novel with the mysterious beginning, Nathaniel Hawthorne successfully catches the reader’s attention, and raises curiosity on what happens and pay more attention to the story. On the other hand, the movie is set when Hester arrives in the New World. She comes to Boston alone to prepare a home for her husband. On the first day there, she has a dinner with the governors in the town, and an elder suggests Hester to live with her. However, she bravely tells them that she intend find a house and live alone waiting for her husband even though she knows it is not allowed. At that time, a woman lives alone is also considered that she breaks the law. The movie’s opening in the New World has a different message than the novel’s beginning setting by a jail. The book shows punishment for hidden sin; in chapter two, Hester has to stand on a scaffold and hold her infant. While the movie opening tells us that Hester is a woman that will do whatever she wants even if it breaks the laws.

In both, the character Mistress Hibbin is a minor character, but the changes in her appearance in the movie alter the meaning of the novel. In the movie, Hester abandons the village laws and lives far from the town. There, Hester meets and joins a group of outcasts led by Mistress Hibbins (played by Joan Plowright). Mistress Hibbin is a kind person, helps and advises Hester and the other outcasts in the town. She also helps Hester give birth when she is in the prison. Pearl is thought to be a witch along with Hester through her affiliation with Hibbins. Mistress...
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