A IS FOR ADULTERY
I was really caught up in the story. Usually I just skimmed over the school English text but this old story had me really pondering the rights and wrongs of it even though I knew that wasn’t really what the author intended. We were supposed to feel sympathy for Hester and her daughter Pearl. The scarlet letter Hester wore stitched to her dress ostracised her from the folk in the small puritan community. Adulterer it said. But what about the man a wondered?
Of course Pearl had a father and Hester refused to say who he was. I tried to guess who it was and that was probably one reason I read on to the end. Miss Finch was quite excited that I was taking such an interest in the story. She had been teaching for years and years and I think she had just about given up hope that any of the cane farmer’s kids or the locals would ever be interested in literature or get away to university. I guess she was counting down to retirement and a chance to get away from the heat and humidity up here.
I looked up adultery and it said voluntary sexual intercourse between a person and a person who is not their spouse. Then I had to look up spouse. Seems every married person was a spouse.
Jane was the reason I was so interested in the story. She was in a class below me and every year she looked more like me. The same shaped face and the same tight curls. Her mother Annie was a slut. Everyone said so and in a town like ours where everyone knew everyone I assumed it was true.
I didn’t have to look up slut. My mother had a lot of other words to describe Annie and I was left in no doubt that she had seduced my father and broken up our home. Morals of an alley cat my mother said.
My father moved away a long time ago and mum reckoned it was so he didn’t have to pay child support. Mum said dad had probably left a trail of impoverished bastards all over the state. I hoped they didn’t all look like me.
Mum worked long hours in the garage and we managed Ok. Annie worked in the pub and mum reckoned it was so she could get her hands on other men. Annie was really pretty. She had straight blonde hair and a really nice curvy figure. If I were Jane I would sure have been disappointed that I didn’t look like her. Mum said dad and I were no oil painting.
I guess Jane knew that her mum was an adulterer. Everyone else in the school made sure it was no secret but I never talked to her about it. In fact I never talked to her at all. She spent most of her time in the library anyway.
I asked Miss Finch if she thought Jane’s mum should wear a scarlet letter on her dress like in the old days but she just laughed and said that if all the adulterers in this town had to wear a scarlet letter we would need to order in material from Brisbane. I reckon she doesn’t think much of us locals.
I finished the book and answered all the questions about it but it was really weak at the end. The minister was so filled with guilt about being Pearl’s father that he died and Pearl ended up rich. Hester was forgiven and did good works whatever they were. She still wore the scarlet letter.
It was a good book though for making me think about why the women seem to get all the blame for things like sex. After all it takes two to be adulterers. If the minister hadn’t been feeling so guilty and confessed before he died he would have got away with his reputation intact.
Mum’s boss at the garage had no chance of keeping his reputation intact. His wife walked in on him and mum working back late and she told everyone that mum was sitting on his knee naked. He was naked as well so I reckon they should both wear the scarlet letters I’m making for them in home economics.