Throwing Stones at the Sinful Ones: The Two Stories Intertwined Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

Adultery has always been one of the most complicated issues concerning the relationships between a man and a woman. Surprisingly, this topic passed the time-testing and still evokes quite considerable conflicts and debates.

With countless interpretations in literature and other arts, this problem and everything that it triggers has been depicted in the most colorful way in The Scarlet Letter, the novel by Hawthorne and in No Name Woman, the short story by Kingston.

Compared to the novel by Hawthorne, Kingston’s short novel shows that nothing has changed since the times when women were branded for committing adultery – the society is still just as deaf and blind, unwilling to sympathize with the others and realize the difficulties which those people had to pass through.

Taking a closer look at the way Hawthorne depicts the tortures of the poor woman, one can see clearly that people are attacking the fallen one with the savage-like amusement.

Though this can be explained by the cruel and uncompromising spirit of the ear, it is still hard to believe that the false morals and the environment created by the church influenced people so hard and squeezed the last drops of sympathy out of their hearts. There is definitely more than meets the eye in these violent attacks and the scornful negligence of the poor Hester Prynne.

As the storyteller mentions, the people in Salem were eagerly accusing the young woman without even trying to understand what happened indeed. With their striving for what they call “justice”, the people of Salem forget about humanity and sympathy: “Man had marked this woman’s sin by a scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself” (108).

The book shows clearly that the treatment of adultery was more than intolerance – it bordered hatred and despise. With the pathetic morals and even more pathetic attempts to seem virtuous, these people accused the victim, knowing no mercy. As Lawson claims, “I have also suggested that a woman, not being a public persona, has not had a reputation either to protect or display in the same way.

Yet her reputation was never completely unimportant” (302). As the plot of the story unwinds in front of the reader, it becomes more and more evident that the most ardent adepts of virtue turn out to be the most sinful people. However, it cannot be denied that the rejection, which she was constantly getting, did have an effect on her vision of the world – it became blurred and almost grey, like a sky on a rainy day.

Hester’s refusal to search for compassion and her unwillingness to feel the joy of life once again is what the stings of the spiteful tongues led her to:

Women desire a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle. To Hester Prynne it might have been a mode of expressing, and therefore soothing, the passion of her life. Like all other joys, she rejected it as sin. (Hawthorne 102)

Because of the strain which Hester cannot help feeling, she becomes more and more desperate. As she continues her life journey, she feels that it grows increasingly unbearable. However, it must be admitted that the woman is carrying her burden with outstanding decency and pride. No matter what the crowd might say, she is going to take it for the sake of her daughter and her own life.

Compared to her, the nameless woman in Kingston’s story creates an impression of an intimidated and despised. In spite of the fact that this woman lives in quite different era with the ideas of women emancipation spreading all over the world, she is still oppressed and intimidated, in contrast to Hawthorn’s heroine, so willful and determined.

There must be certain reason for such changes, which is, perhaps, the growing strain within, resulting in the need to stone the sinful woman and enjoy watching her suffer.

Kingston depicts her character as the one that has given up for the mercy of the crowd and is unwilling to fight. Both characters have to take terrible rumors about their life and their adultery, yet Hester takes them with an evident scorn, whereas No Name Woman leaves them unnoticed because of her despair.

She is a shame, a “disgrace” for the family from this time on, and people have the right to neglect her, No Name Woman thinks.

In addition, people’s violence turns out to be even more striking in her case. Brutal and cruel, people tried to make her fear – and they succeeded; they were hunting her like an animal and making her realize her own uselessness:

At first they threw mud and rocks at the house. Then they threw eggs and began slaughtering our stock. We could hear the animals scream their deaths-the roosters, the pigs, a last great roar from the ox. Familiar wild heads flared in our night windows; the villagers encircled us. Some of the faces stopped to peer at us, their eyes rushing like searchlights. The hands flattened against the panes, framed heads, and left red prints (Kingston 2)

Thus, it must be admitted that the attitude towards the women who have committed adultery did not change for better since the times that Hawthorne described; moreover, the negative attitude towards women committing adultery increased.

What strikes most about the situation depicted by Kingston is that people are ready to convince a woman of a sin without even trying to find out what made her step on the slippery slope of adultery and deception. The atmosphere of constant rumors enhances the tension, and the poor woman feels even more miserable when realizing that people have already created their version of her life and her sins.

It is clear that the pressure which the neighborhood puts on the nameless aunt, haunting her with their constant scorns, is much more than a man can take.

It is completely clear that even the little girl in the story considers the secret which her mother trusted her in a dirty and shameful thing; the girl cannot perceive the idea that her aunt is no worse than any average villager in their homeland. Even after the death of the woman, the entire family cannot accept the fact that No Name Woman ever existed – until the girl makes them do so:

Not only does No Name Aunt’s family not acknowledge her death, they decide not to acknowledge her life. […] Kingston is unable to do this, though, until the authoritative discourse of her mother, bringing it with the words of her father, the village, and the Chinese culture gives way to the internally persuasive. (Chua 12)

This is another example of how cruel the society can be and what pains it might take to prove someone not guilty to a bunch of the blind, deaf and dumb. Making it clear that the false moral is still reigning in the world, Kingston continues the topic raised by Hawthorne to come to a sad conclusion.

In spite of the evolution and the spiritual progress, people still possess the speck of the ancient times when stoning for a sin was considered an act of righteousness. Inherited from the ancestors, this is the very thing that deprives people of sympathy.

Considering the above-mentioned pieces, one can assume that people’s attitude towards the women committing adultery changed for the worse since Hawthorn created his touching and shocking story. Priding themselves on their virtues which actually prove just as false as their morals, people continue stoning the sinful ones, forgetting about their own sins.

It seems that the time has come to recall the famous “If any of you is without a sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Tracing the attitude towards adultery in the two stories, one will obviously notice the fact that together with the scorn and despise, people started resorting to physical abuse, which is the case for the No Name Woman.

Such lame attempts to prove their superiority break the life of the poor woman completely and leave her breathless outside the boundaries of society. “The villagers are watchful” (3) Kingston claims, and this is the hard truth the poor woman has to live with. The villagers are watchful. Keep your eyes open, and be as brave as Hester, otherwise even death will not bring you peace.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Lindenhurst, NY: Triebca Books, 2011. Print.

Chua, Soon-Leng, and Margaret Poh Choo Chua. The Woman Warrior: China Men. New York, NY: Everyman’s Library, 2005. Print. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 1998. Print.

Kingston, Maxim Hong. “No Name Woman”. The Woman Warrior: China Men. New York, NY: Everyman’s Library, 2005. Print. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 2005, 1- 17. Print.

Lawson, Annette. Adultery: An Analysis of Love and Betrayal. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1988. Print.

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