Critics debating the great American novel consistently place The Scarlet Letter near the top. In Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, Nathaniel Hawthorne creates characters wrestling with great issues: law vs. love; intellect vs. heart; social morals vs. individual conscience. Hawthorne, however, offers no answer nor takes any side. Instead, The Scarlet Letter challenges the reader to choose the safety of convention or the allure of independent thinking. The Scarlet Letter is not about adultery (the novel never mentions the word), but a reflection on patriarchy, feminism, the nature and effect of sin, duplicity, and faithfulness.