Hester Prynne is one of the characters in the Annabelle Troy novel Jane Eyre Gets Real. She also has the starring role in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Because Hester is naturally frugal, when she wakes up to find herself in contemporary New York City she doesn’t run off to the movies or the theater. Plus, she is scared of going outside…She stays home a lot and watches cable TV, DVDs, and youtube.

Naturally the amount of sex on TV has come as a shock to her, especially the joyful participation of most women in physical acts that, in Hester’s day, were performed silently, in the dark. (Of course, that is how Puritans did most things anyway.) So, when Hester found the Starz TV show Flesh and Bone, she was delighted to discover Claire (portrayed by Sarah Hay). Claire is a withdraw ballerina being groomed for fame; she doesn’t want to have sex with anybody–with the possible exception of her brother, with whom she has been in an incestuous relationship for years. Because Claire and her brother turned to each other for love due to very unhappy home circumstances, Hester finds it possible to forgive them. She identifies with Claire’s fierce wish to belong only to herself, as opposed to say, Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw who looks on her body as an extension of her adventurous soul.

Hester also likes a little-known French Canadian movie called Sarah Prefers to Run (spoiler alert follows.) This film’s pretty, athletic heroine might be Claire’s best friend. Sarah wears no make-up, favors grey clothes, and scrapes her hair back into a ponytail. She enrolls in college in order to become a track star–not to engage in drinking, drugs, or sexual experimentation. (On the flip side, she never seems to study either.) All Sarah wants to do is run. Though she marries another student so they can both obtain grants (it’s some Canadian thing), she doesn’t want to spend any time with him. Probably because of this, her easy-going young husband falls for her. When they finally have sex (it is not making love), Sarah gives up her virginity to him in ways that are both physically and emotionally painful. Soon after they divorce. Facing possibly fatal heart arrhythmia, as well as a lifetime of loneliness, Sarah rededicates herself to running. She’s like the nun of track and field.

As for Hester’s love life a Puritan never tells. This may be because she has nothing to tell or else because, raised in a time when sex was dangerous as sin, discretion is a titillation in itself.

 

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