Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This Is Why . . .

Every year, I plan out my units for my American Lit class. I look at the Romanticism unit and think, "I'm not teaching the Scarlet Letter this time. It's too hard, the kids fuss . . . we can read some short stories from the period instead."

Guess what I end up teaching? Every. Single. Year.


The Scarlet Letter.

Halfway through, I want to pull out my hair, wondering why I bother. But chapters seventeen and eighteen? Sigh. The kids clue in. Things smooth out. And oh my, we get a glimpse of Hawthorne as a romantic writer. Not a Romanticist (hey, he is -- he's probably THE writer of the American Romantic movement . . .okay, okay, I know. People are going to come out of the woodwork and take me to task for that . . . but it's Hawthorne, people.) But a romance writer.

Now, don't pick up the Scarlet Letter expecting the happy ending found in today's romances. It doesn't have one. It has what I would call a satisfying denouement, but Hester and Dimmesdale do not live happily ever after. But when they are reunited after seven years apart? Oh. My. Goodness. The sparks do fly and Hester's passionate nature, repressed for those years, comes out in full force:

The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne:

"Why did I not understand O Hester Prynne thou little little knowest all the horror of this thing And the shame the indelicacy the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it Woman woman thou art accountable for this I cannot forgive thee Thou shalt forgive me cried Hester flinging herself on the fallen leaves beside him Let God punish Thou shalt forgive With sudden and desperate tenderness she threw her arms around him and pressed his head against her bosom little caring though his cheek rested on the scarlet letter He would have released himself but strove in vain to do so Hester would not set him free lest he should look her sternly in the face All the world had frowned on her for seven long years had it frowned upon this lonely woman and still she bore it all nor ever once turned away her firm sad eyes Heaven likewise had frowned upon"

That . . . Hawthorne's incredible heroine, the way her love -- though buried -- never dies, her growth throughout the book . . . that is why I come back to the book year after year.

What about you? Any favorite classics which involve a love story? Do share!

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