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Perception - Keeping Faith And The Scarlet Letter

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COMPARATIVE ESSAY: PERCEPTION

Because sight is weak while perception is strong, we must view things both close and at a distance to see its importance. Throughout Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, we see how perception, in both novels, plays a significant role. The self view, belief in religion and, society’s stereotyping, all emerge to show the importance of one’s perceptions in everyday life.

A nurturing self view is likely the most important thing in a beings mental state. It permits a healthy confidence, allows for intuitive growth and indicates how others view you. But for Mariah White in Keeping Faith, a positive self view was merely a long passed memory. Mariah was committed to a mental institution with a classic case of clinical depression, after discovering her husband in bed with another woman. This state of mind has been with Mariah long before Colin’s act of betrayal, but these feelings did derive from Colin himself. “Reaching for one half of Faith’s artwork, I run my fingers over the waxy resistance of the witch. вЂ?I think she was drawing meвЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Picoult, 18). Over so many years of being undermined by Colin’s over powering ego, Mariah began to crumble and Colin felt this, causing a vicious cycle. When their marriage finally came to an end after Colin’s second affair, Mariah changed. She was forced to extend her love to her mother and later on to another man, Ian. Their belief was not that Mariah was weak and pitiful, but that she was strong and incredible. Their perception of Mariah is what caused her to change her own perception. “Mariah stands in the doorway, refusing to move. This is not the Mariah Colin knows, the Mariah he knows would hove cowardly moved aside.” (Picoult, 165). She was always the same person; all she needed was a different view on life and of herself.

Contrary to Mariah, Hester Prynne, from The Scarlet Letter, had always had a healthy self view. From the beginning of the novel, when she was found guilty of adultery, Hester was determined to not let it get in her way. She believed that by leaving the community, she would be denying herself the right to face her sin, which is an important part of self view. “But there was a more real life for Hester Prynne here, in New England, than in that unknown region where Pearl [her daughter] had found a home. Here had been her sin; here, her sorrow; and here was yet to be her penitence” (Hawthorn, 234). Throughout the years that Hester endured the humiliation of her public sin, she continued living her life with dignity. The scarlet “A” on her chest had become part of her own identity. At first she was sceptical of how it would change her, but the truth was that it had made her a stronger person and even brought out her inner beauty. Hester was able to appreciate the scarlet letter through knowledge of experience, giving her a new perspective of its value.

In both novels, religion is observed under many different lights. In Keeping Faith, Faith, Mariah’s seven year old daughter, was believed to be seeing God, which she claims to be her female imaginary friend. Throughout the novel the question of which religious category Faith falls under is constantly asked. On one hand Faith is considered to be Jewish due to her great grandmother’s beliefs, therefore rabbis claim that she should be put under their observation. But on the other, the Bishop pretences that the Lord does not reveal himself to non Catholics, therefore it should be their right to observe Faith to assure the church members are not being misled. When law is added to the mix, controversy becomes unbearable.

“Do you believe in God Ms. van der Hoven?” Millie [Faith’s grandmother] asks.

“That’s not the issue here.” Kenzie replies. “The issue in this custody hearing is where the best home is for Faith, ma’am. With all due respect, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for God.”

“See I don’t agree with you. To me, you can’t do your job without asking yourself whether or not you believe. Because if you don’t then Faith must be lying, and that’s going to affect your decision about where she belongs” (Picoult, 282).

All members of the controversial issue have their different perspective and beliefs of the situation. Some believed what Faith saw as a female God was merely Jesus in his traditional garments and others didn’t believe in a word she said.

Religion was also very much intertwined with law in The Scarlet Letter. During this time period, the church was the government, and the bible was the book of law. Not only was a sin a personal act between you and God, but it was also an act against law, therefore making it public.

In either case, there was very much the same solemnity of demeanour on the spectators; as befitted a people amongst whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and the severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful (Hawthorne, 47).

Because the church did not know under which circumstances Hester committed her sin, and did

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