I certainly do not want trade my freedoms now for a life that Hester and her daughter Pearl would have lived. A life of a theocracy. Puritan legalism is still alive and well in our culture, it is dying but it was in full force in Hester's life. There is a movement, among mostly Republicans to go back, to go back to this time, where "god" was a legal scholar and where one interpretation of truth and justice was the only interpretation. The grand irony is, when they branded her with the A-- for adulteress, and cast her out, she found freedom. She had rejected their ways and rejected their culture and found a new way. A way of enlightenment. In many ways Hawthorne is speaking through Hester but even in his life time, there was little religious freedom. There was not one state church, but American culture was very wrapped up in repressions of a religious sorts. It was also a time of great rebellion-- on the continent and soon to be had in the United States. Some say Hester is a metaphor for countries and revolution and enlightenment. Maybe so, but the reality is, this is the status of women, at the time. What I have always loved is Hawthorne at least made her an active participant in her life. She was not seduced or raped. She conceived a child in love, at least we are lead to believe that.
I will also give Purtians their due-- unlike our culture, which is very much rooted in Victorianism, males who committed adultery where also branded. That means men like Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Bill Clinton and John Edwards would have similarly been branded.
In the North-American Puritan settlements of the 17th century, men and women sentenced for having committed acts of adultery were branded with an "A" letter on their chest (men) or bosom (women). (from Wikipedia)
That aside, I do not want to return to a time where other people's morality are the judge and jury of my behavior. We can all have an opinion about adultery, mowing the lawn on Sundays, the consumption of beer and wine or brewed anything for matter, eating meat or not eating meat and so on and so on. There is no one right answer. Since our country is founded on the very principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It really does not get anymore clear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (see the real deal here)
So I fail to see how we can say in one breath (I am looking at you GOP) that we want to go back to the time the Bill of Rights was written and then in the next breath say that we need to protect God's commandments? Oh really, which ones and which God? There are so many versions and flavors running around. (and btw I don't really care for any of them.)
Women were no more free and equal partners in 1850 than they were in 1680. Adultery is still illegal in many states in 2012. Now branding, thank goodness is no longer the punishment, but the law is still on the books. (and Ladies... the rules for you are vastly different than for the men. In fact it really is all on us ladies. Oh goodie, look how far we have come...)
I hope I am being convincing here. I really don't want to go back. The correct direction is forward. We learn as we grow and from our mistakes. Remember in 1776 they walked around in their own sewage. On a hot day that had to be so pleasant. Our laws should always error on the side of inclusion. They should not be based on anyone's holy text and they should not ever make someone a 2nd class citizen. If we think a behavior is inappropriate or a social custom isn't for us, then we don't do it. We can write about it, we can join groups of like minded people, who also don't do it, we can build big buildings and hang out with other people who don't do it, we can discuss with our children openly and honestly why we do or don't so something, but we cannot make laws that force everyone to do it this "one right way aka OUR way." There isn't one right way.
I like my tea, my bacon, and freedom. I don't like tobacco, raw sewage and narrow minded people.
See, there was that so hard? No need to go back. If some people want to wallow in their own sewage, I am not going to stop them. I am not going to visit them either.