The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

Delve into The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne's meditation on human alienation and its effect on the soul in this story set in seventeenth-century Massachusetts and be dazzled by literature.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's dark novel, The Scarlet Letter, a single sinful act ruins the lives of three people.

None more so than Hester Prynne, a young, beautiful, and dignified woman, who conceived a child out of wedlock and receives the public punishment of having to always wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing.

Though originally published in 1850, the story is set in seventeenth-century Massachusetts among Hawthorne's Puritan ancestors.

Reviews of the The Scarlet Letter

One wonders, why doth she, in this instance of walking across the room, begin her journey upon the left foot and not the right?

I found my old high school review of this book. I did the same thing with Old Man and the Sea (I remember loathing that book when I read it my freshmen year) and the second time around I LIKED IT!

If an entire community, and religious sect, brand a girls mother as a sinner, whether justly or unjustly, then surely the girl will take some of this to heart? If the only world she has ever known is one when he only parent is considered ungodly, blasphemous and full of sin, then surely she will begin to reflect some of these ideals? Ultimately, Hawthorne portrays the religious sect as hypocrites who are completely self-defeating in their actions. Men like this are dangerous, and in this Hawthorne establishes his message. The language combination was also a little odd at times; it felt like the author had lifted certain expressions straight from Shakespeares vocabulary and infused it with his own. The overall message of this piece of literature is what makes it a worthy read even if its delivery was a little pedantic at times. The overall message of this piece of literature is what makes it a worthy read even if its delivery was a little pedantic at times.

*edit 12 september 2008: im tutoring with this for of my students, as her AP english teacher is teaching it as part of his curriculum.

Actually, I've read this book twice, the first time when I was in high school.

It's been far too long since I read a book with careful intensity, noting throwaway lines that are likely to show up on a multiple choice or short answer test that misses the main themes of a book entirely while managing to ask lots of questions like, "In the fourth chapter, what kind of shoes was character you don't even remember wearing?" I was thinking maybe it would be nice to read a book like this without worrying about that stuff, just absorbing it for what it was and then moving on through my life drunk. Let me give you an example of what a sentence in this book is like: A man- who was born in a small town, which bore no resemblance to the town his parents imagined for him when they settled in the area over 40 years ago with every intention of starting a small business selling gift baskets online that sort of petered out after bigger companies like FTD caught onto the whole thing and ran the little guys out with predatory pricing- decided to go for a walk one day. But in a book where the sexual and social mores of Puritan society are called into question, it kind of overdoes everything and kills the mood. I have a frequent argument with my brother regarding what makes things (movies, books, whatever) great. Furthermore, when the prose is TOO challenging I am constantly thinking, "This is a book I am reading and here is the next line of this book." I am not at all swept up in the narrative and therefore don't enjoy it nearly as much. I like to think of books as being like magicians. It takes an even better writer to write a great book that appears nearly effortless. One might accuse me of rarely reading challenging books, and maybe it's true. Perhaps most telling, at the book club meeting we were discussing this last night, and an older lady asked a pretty decent question: "Why is this considered a classic?" There are two answers, one that is what the Everyman Library will tell you and one that I would tell you. I think there are a lot of people out there who never liked these books, and rather than making their voices heard about what they think people should read they just drop out of the world of books altogether. My point is, I think this is a bad book.

I think the main problem for me is that a lot of The Scarlet Letter relies on the religious aspect instead of the social aspect. I expected a lot more ostracising and name-calling from other members of the community but most people talked to Hester like she'd done nothing wrong (though, they tended to stare at her scarlet letter) and her bad reputation didn't seem to affect her life massively. In fact, it didn't seem to me like much of the main story was about the scarlet letter attached to her bosom. If you don't know the story, basically Hester Prynne commits adultery that results in the birth of an illegitimate child, the ministers then rule that she should be forced to wear a scarlet letter 'A' for the rest of her life so she will be publicly shamed.

Hawthorne anonymously published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828. His work is considered part of the Romantic movement and includes novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend, the United States President Franklin Pierce.

  • English

  • Classics

  • Rating: 3.39
  • Pages: 279
  • Publish Date: February 27th 2003 by Penguin Books
  • Isbn10: 0142437263
  • Isbn13: 9780142437261