I’m not a fan of The Scarlet Letter. It’s just one of those books that I thought everybody reads – like the Bible. It’s one of our common stories, with one of our common and therefore short-hand images. Kind of like Juliet talking to Romeo from her balcony.
Recently, I watched the movie Burning Bridges with a group who were for the most part younger than I am. This movie features a community discussion with 6 young men in their twenties who burned a historic covered bridge in Bucks County about ten years ago. These young men were middle class educated youths from respected families. They said they didn’t know what that bridge meant to people. And they didn’t know why they decided to destroy it. But they were sorry to have upset and disappointed so many people. They were especially upset to see their parents cry.
These young men were sentenced to 18 days in jail, 1000 hours of community service and each was fined $66,000, their share of the $400,000 it cost to replace the bridge. One woman in the group watching this movie said she didn’t think the punishment was appropriate. (I did think it was appropriate.)
Partly in jest, I asked her, “Do you think they should be made to wear Scarlet A’s for Arsonist?”
Nobody laughed. People in the room looked at me as if I was making an absurd suggestion with no basis. Have people stopped reading The Scarlet Letter?