How do A Room With A View and the film adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, represent the ways in which individuals conform to and/or challenge social authority and control?

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Arguably both of these texts represent more of a challenge to social authority and control than any conforming to it. The respective heroines, in their own separate ways, clearly choose to defy the forces of social authority and control by making their own choices and living their own lives. This is of course something that Hester Prynne does before the beginning of the text in her decision to pursue an illicit relationship with Arthur Dimmesdale, and then her decision to broadcast her crime by sewing the most elaborate and rich "A" she is able to make. For Lucy Honeychurch, her move to challenge social authority is a gradual process. At the beginning of the novel she remains very much in the shadow of Charlotte Bartlett, trying to live within the narrow confines of the British class system. However, as the novel develops, she begins to realise that a different way of life is possible:

But, in Italy, where any one who chooses may warm himself in equality, as in the sun, this conception of life vanished. Her senses expanded; she felt that there was no one whom she might not get to like, that social barriers were irremovable, doubtless, but not particularly high. You jump over them just as you jump into a peasant's olive-yard in the Apennines, and he is glad to see you.

Her challenge to social authority is shown through her rejection of Cecil Vyse and her marriage to the socially undesirable George Honeychurch and her determination to follow the dictates of her own heart rather than the dictates of her own society. Hester Prynne lives her life literally on the fringes of her society, happy to remain something of a persona non grata, although arguably it could be viewed that her decision to stay in the same house for the remainder of her days represents something of an acceptance of the contraints of her society and the limitations they have imposed upon her. Both heroines however show through their actions a rejection of social control in their determination to make their own choices and live with the consequences, however unpleasant.

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The Scarlet Letter

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