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 Joffe, 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 Joffe’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 ho 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 Hibbin is known as a witch in the Puritan society, Therefore Hester and Pearl are almost executed. The characterization of Mistress Hibbins is enormously different from Hawthorne’s novel. She is a witch but she is protected by her relationship with Governor Bellingham from the evil witch trial.
She often goes to the forest at night to ride with the Black Man. And she can always see what people think. She is a suspicious character, and people do not trust her. Her appearance in the movie makes people sympathize her, and pity her. While in the novel, whenever she appears, the readers know that bad things will happen. She is not a sympathetic person. Her mystifying character in the book adds more interest to the story. And the novel uses Mistress Hibbins as a hateful person to show other character’s secret sin, while the movie uses her as a victim of the cruelty Puritan laws.
In the movie, one day while waiting for her husband, Hester is engrossed following a red bird into the forest, and she meets Arthur Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale is immediately struck by her beauty and charm. Even though they both have feelings for each other, they refuse to be together until Roger Chillingworth is reported dead in an Indian massacre. This scene makes the viewers have a good impression of Hester and Dimmesdale. Because the plot shows that Chillingworth is now dead, it is appropriate for Hester and Dimmesdale to be lovers. She is together with another man; she is not unfaithful to her husband. Her husband’s death frees her soul.
The false report about the death of Chillingworth helps Hester and Dimmesdale to not feel guilty because she is not unfaithful to her husband. However, in the novel, Hawthorne never says that there is any false report about Chillingworth. Hester and Dimmesdale have no excuse for their wrong relationship. These changes change the meaning of the story because the guilt Dimmesdale feels as being in a wrong relationship hurts him. However, in the movie, the plot is changed to make the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale is not a guiltiness because “God took him away; if in his eyes, there is no way us can be together” (Dimmesdale, movie).
In the novel, Dimmesdale’s guilt causes him to suffer harsh punishments for the entire of his life. The other reason causes him mental and physical sickness is Chillingworth because in the novel, Hester hides Chillingworth’s identity. And because Dimmesdale does not know Chillingworth is Hester’s husband, so Chillingworth can dwell upon Dimmesdale like a curse, and rankle in Dimmesdale’ heart. Hester asks Dimmesdale if he has found peace, he answers, “None! —nothing but despair! ”(Hawthorne 172). The minister’s sin tortures him from the inside out.
The guilt he holds inside makes his condition worse. He becomes pale and weak. He scourges himself, fasts, and refuses to sleep because he feels ashamed for not admitting his sin in the public. And in the end, after he confesses his sin, his soul is in peace, and passes on. Surprisingly, Dimmesdales does not appear to suffer much torment in the movie. It might be because Chillingworth’s identity is revealed from the beginning whereas in the novel Hester hide her husband’s identity, so Dimmesdale does not get hurt from Chillingworth. On the other and, the movie’s message is the pain Dimmesdale bears is not his sin but because he cannot protect Hester and Pearl, the ones he loves. The only scene where the viewers could see him in pain is when he wants to meet her while she is in the prison. Disregarding the convention that no one can visit her, he goes to Hester’s prison every day, stands outside, calls her name, waits for her, and begs Hester to reveal in public that he is the child’s father. But in the novel, Dimmesdale afraid to confess that he is Pearl’s father in public.
This is not right because Hawthorne’s message is the secret sin hurts people. Hawthorne states that “to which sick hearts are liable, had not rendered him suspicious of all mankind” (118-119). Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is haunted by Satan because he lies (Hawthorne). Roger Chillingworth’s motivation in the movie is to punish Hester’s lover but the way he revenge in the movie is different. In the movie, Chillingworth says he will reveal the baby’s father, and make him suffer. But strangely, the viewers feel that he actually hurts Hester, Pearl, and people around them not Dimmesdale.
Chillingworth tortures Hester by hitting her and frightening her. He accuses Pearl as being a witch because she has a mark of evil on her body. He also hurts people around them. He cruelly treats people around them; he kills Mituba who is Hester’s slave, to prevent Hester and Dimmesdale’s communication because she is a connection for them. And Chillingworth has Mistress Hibbins hung for being a witch. On the other hand, in the novel, Chillingworth says that “for my aid, his life would have burned away in torments” (Hawthorne 155), shows clearly that Chillingworth’s motivation is to destroy Hester’s man.
His goal is not Hester and Pearl. Yet Chillingworth evil’s nature is expressed excellently in both film and book. Hawthorne describes Pearl as a weird, eerie child but in the movie, Pearl is a sweet child and always obeys her mother. She also never asks or shows her interest in the scarlet letter which is her mom has to wear as a punishment for her adultery while in the novel she is always interested in the scarlet letter A on her mother dress. Pearl’s curiosity about the scarlet letter indicates the problem with hiding sin.
She also notices that Dimmesdale often holds his hand over his heart; she can sense there is a problem between her mom and the Minister. Hawthorne wants to address that secret sin causes problem, while the movie’s message is there is no problem with Pearl, the child out of wedlock because her mom and her father love each other. Even though they commit adultery, their love cannot be separated. The ending in the movie is surprisingly different. The fates of the character are much different.
In the movie, after Dimmesdale reveals that he is Hester’s lover, Roger Chillingworth urges the Puritan society to hang Hester and Dimmesdale. Unfortunately, at the time he tries to hang the Minister, there is a surprising Indian attack, and Chillingworth gets killed by the Indian army. But in the novel, Chillingworth dies one year after Dimmesdale dies because of a long time of sickness. The Scarlet Letter’s film director, Roland Joffe has made the movie has a happy ending. In the movie, Pearl, Hester, and Dimmesdale move to another city to start a new life after Roger Chillingworth’s death.
They have a blissful life while in the novel, Dimmesdale passes away not long after the secret sin is revealed, and also Chillingworth dies after Dimmesdale’s death one year. The novel wants to state that secret sin is bad, and that is not a good idea to hide their sin, however, the movie tells that love is beautiful, and love can overcome everything. After carefully examining, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the rendition by Roland Joffe, the viewers and the readers can immediately see how the enormous differences in plot and character change the message of the novel.
Even though both talk about a woman named Hester who breaks the Puritan laws, and the punishments she and people around her have to suffer, each delivers a different message. Dimmesdale is the best example for the message that guilt can destroy a person’s life and soul. Dimmesdale’s guilt is a part that causes his death at the end of the story. The novel is excellent in showing the readers that secret sin hurts people. On the other hand, the movie shows that one must be brave for love.
Love cures all the pain, for instance, in the movie, the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale. Their love strengthens them so they can go through all the hardships, and by the end, they are together. In the movie, love cures all the pain in Hester and Dimmesdale relationship. Perhaps the movie wants a happy ending but it leaves the viewers without learning anything. On the other hand, the novel wants teach the readers that hidden sin hurts people. The novel’s message is more significant. Words: 2,050 Works Cited James, Pearl. An overview of The Scarlet Letter. ” An essay for Exploring Novels. Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, Literature Resource Center. Gale. Valley Christian High School – BAISL. Web. 18 Jan. 2010. “A review of ‘The Scarlet Letter: A Romance. ” The Athenaeum. 1181 (15 June 1850): 634. Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Laurie Lanzen Harris. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research, 1982. p634. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Valley Christian High School – BAISL. Web. 18 Jan. 2010. Hawthorne, Nathaniel.
The Scarlet Letter. New York: Bantam, 2003. Print. The Scarlet Letter. Dir. Roland Joffe. Perf. Demi Moore, and Gary Oldman. USA, 1995. DVD. “The Scarlet Letter. ” Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Jessica Bomarito and Russel Whitaker. Vol. 158. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Web. 20 Jan. 2010. James, Pearl. “An overview of The Scarlet Letter. ” an Essay for Exploring Novels. Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, Literature Resource Center. Gale. Web. 20 Jan. 2010.