After reading over 'The Scarlet Letter', I discovered a common theme in this novel with two other stories I had read earlier in the year for school, 'Easy A' and 'Catcher in the Rye'. The common theme is the significance of sexuality.
Sexuality is viewed in a negative manner, often perceived as a form of sin. However nearly every human eventually has sex at some point of their lives so if this is the case, then the world is full of sinners. It is impossible to be sexually pure, and those who believe they can be are only deceiving themselves. The characters of The Scarlet Letter, Easy A, and The Catcher in the Rye have come to this realization through their own personal experiences throughout each story. Although they struggled with the concept of sexuality, they overcame their challenges and learned to cope with it in various ways.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne committed the crime of adultery and was forced to be publicly shamed for the rest of her life. Her sexual misconduct was exposed to the entire society, causing people to look down on her and criticize her. Hester made one mistake and was forced to live with the consequences forever. Despite other actions she made to amend for her sin, she was still shunned and there was nothing she could do to be accepted back into society. However, it is ironic because other people of the community were just as sinful as Hester; they revealed in secrecy to Dimmesdale that they committed adultery as well. The people shamed Hester for a crime they also committed, displaying sexual hypocrisy in the story.
Easy A was a story that also had a negative perspective on sexuality. After lying about losing her virginity, a series of more lies began to spiral out of control and Olive Penderghast soon became identified as the school slut. Even though Olive’s initial intention was to help others by lying for them, the other students paid no attention to her good deeds and only focused on her sexual sin. Sexual hypocrisy also played a role in Easy A as the students who shamed Olive were the ones who wanted to see her naked. In another instance, an extremely pious boy cheated on his girlfriend, slept with a teacher, and contracted chlamydia. These two scenarios of sexual hypocrisy show that those who criticized Olive were actually committing sexual sin themselves.
The Catcher in the Rye had a different outlook on sexuality because it was not viewed in such a deplorable way as it was in the other two novels. Although Holden Caulfield did not like the idea of kids losing their innocence to sexuality, he accepted it because he knew it was inevitable. Sex was an unavoidable part of growing up, and even though this disappointed Holden, he did not see any shame in it. However despite this acceptance of sexuality, the story still contained sexual hypocrisy in the sense that an adult was not capable of recognizing his own sexuality. Holden’s teacher, Mr. Antolini, was a closeted gay man who was married to a woman. Even after attempting to make a move on a male student, he was still unable to accept the fact that he was gay and could not embrace his own sexuality.
Sexuality heavily influenced the characters and their development as people, drastically affecting their lives. These three stories have proven that no matter how hard you try to prevent it, all people will eventually reach sexuality and give in to this “sin.” Clearly it is impossible for humans to be purely good because sin and misdeeds are inevitable and all part of human nature. The desire to have sex is innate and extremely powerful, and trying to control this is quite difficult and for some, impossible. Sex is a natural instinct inherit in all humans and animals, and seeking sex with another individual is part of our genetic makeup. Therefore humans will never be fully capable of escaping this natural sin they are born with, so it is better to accept sexuality rather than shame people for it.