October 15 2010
How can two fictional characters a century apart influence people today? In The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the reader goes back into Boston Massachusetts around the late 1840’s and experiences the Puritan life. In Chocolat, written by Joanne Harris, you are placed in the middle of France around the 1960’s during lent. Both of these stories have similar women characters in them. In the communities that they live in, the town’s people have a problem with them. Both Hester and Vianne have committed sins and must find a way to live with their own guilt and the judgmental opinions of the people. Although Hester is in Scarlet Letter and Vianne is in Chocolat, they both show determination to live their lives and not let what other people think is right bother them. Everybody may have a different opinion on what they think is right, but they do not necessarily have the right to pass judgment on others.
In the Scarlet Letter, the main character Hester has committed a sin. She has had sex with another man besides her husband and now has produced a child out of wedlock. The town is ashamed to have someone like this in there community. The puritan life is to be pure and without sin. Hester’s punishment is three months in jail and sitting on the scaffold to be humiliated. She has to live in a little shack in the middle of nowhere with her daughter Rose. For Hester’s income she sews gloves, mittens, and scarves. The town Kishan 2
looks at her as if she has three eyes. Hester is not bothered by this at all. She looks at it as a new way of life. She has accepted her sin and now is going on with her own business. “Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers and the made her strong.” When Hester is asked if she regrets it, she says no because she is human and everyone makes mistakes. The town is being very hypocritical toward Hester and her daughter. Instead of shunning them, they need to open up and let them their there community. If they are trying to live their life for God, they need to learn to forgive and accept Hester’s mistakes. Hester would not be as strong as she is if it was not for the sin she committed. Hester deals with her sin by being strong and as helpful as she can. She has a true heart that the people cannot seem to see because they are blinded by their judgmental minds and hears.
In Chocolaat, Vianne is what any reader would call a static character. She is a mother of a child who is born out of wedlock, also. Vianne moves from town to town across France. With her she carry’s a pot of her dead mother’s ashes. She feels like there is no need to stay in one place for too long. When Vianne arrives in a small French village, she uses her gift to open up a chocolate store during lent, a time to give up your self-pleasing desires like chocolate. When the town’s Count sees this, he is disturbed and goes to talk to her. Vianne tells him in there discussion that she intends to open her store and does not want to attend their church. The Count is angry with her decision and decides to leave. The Count starts telling people that they need to avoid her shop because she is un-Godly, due to having a child out of wedlock, and is opening up a chocolate store during lent. When all of the town’s people hear this, they are scared to go into her Kishan 3
shop because they are afraid of what people will think about them. There are a few people in town that are not bothered at all by the Count’s warnings and don’t care what the town thinks of them. Vianne is a character that is going to go on with her business and not let anybody stop her. Vianne just wants to make others happy with her chocolate treats. But happiness is hard to find in this small town. She says, “Happiness is a simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart; bitter, sweet, alive.” She and Hester are very much alike when it comes to dealing with the town not accepting them. Hester and Vianne are both types of women that can be strong and independent. They live there lives as they please. With-out even realizing it, they have turned the towns they live in into a better place. Vianne shows the people that not everyone who does not attend church is evil, and also that you have to have an open heart to everyone, because you never know what they are going through. When Vianne shows her true inner character, people start to see that she is not a bad person after all. Her reaction to the town hating her is to continue to be good and kind. This shows the town that they need to be more open hearted and do the Godly thing and accept different outsiders. In Hester’s situation, the crime that she has committed puts a scurrilous taste in everyone’s mouth. Committing adultery is a horrible crime among the Puritans. The town’s women want Hester to be killed and fell that her punishment is too light. Hester has to deal with wearing an A on her chest for the rest of her life. She shows the town that mistakes can happen and that she is going to be able to deal with it. Her strength and ability to never lose hope, shows her good character. The town needs to not be so hypercritical because the Bible says that everyone sins and that all sins are the same in Gods’ eyes.
Ultimately, the common thread between these two stories and characters is an affect of sin on a person’s life. Everyone makes mistakes and commits sin. Both Hester and Vianne sin and find themselves to be the focus of an entire town’s judgmental wrath. Bother towns are made up of people who are supposed to be Godly people. But instead of offering these women compassion and forgiveness, they shun them and treat them badly. People do not have the authority to pass judgment on others. Only God can be judge of our sins People have to play for forgiveness from God, not other people. Hester and Vianne show that a person has to be strong and determined when faces with adversity. Everyone can find themselves in a similar situation to these characters and can learn from their determination.