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There was a fire in her and throughout her.

Hester Prynne’s husband had been abroad for years, maybe lost at sea. Many men used the opportunity to try to charm her. . . . There was only one Hester couldn’t resist.

When Hester’s sin is discovered, the townspeople of Boston force her to wear the scarlet letter as a stamp of shame. But Hester refuses to give up the name of the man she loves. She’ll protect him and their forbidden love—to the very end.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece of dark romanticism is one of the most enduring stories about the price of unchecked passion. Beautifully presented for a modern teen audience, this is the must-have edition of a timeless classic.

Topics: Dark, Morality, Adultery, Love, Psychological, Colonial Period, Sexuality, Boston, Puritans, Allegory, Symbolism, Dark Romanticism, Tragic, Allegorical, Scandal, and Guilt

Published: HarperTeen an imprint of HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062066039
List price: $8.99
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I honestly feel cheated that I was never required to read this novel in either high school or college. While I found the first chapter about how the author came upon the story of Hester Prynne while working at the custom's house terribly dull, I absolutely loved the novel that followed. The Scarlet Letter is a beautiful pairing of contrasts. While Hester is marked as an adulterer--a sinner, she gives freely of her time and talents to her community. While she is forced to wear the drab attire of the Puritans, her A for adulterer is beautifully crafted. While she is well known for her sin, she seems to hold the sins of others in a secret place in her heart. While she married for stability, she feel victim to her passions. All of these elements work to make a beautifully complex character the reader cannot help but empathize with. One of the themes of the novel I most identified with is the hypocrisy of the townspeople. While many of them have committed a similar sin they are happy to point their fingers at Hester and judge her. The only exception to this rule is the young woman who waits with others outside the jailhouse door as Hester appears before the public. She symbolizes the minority thought in the beginning and in the end of the novel. Her willingness to look at the world from a different perspective provides a window into Hawthorne's analysis of society. There are so many layers to this novel, that I wish I had taken more notes, but I was too swept up in the narrative to catalog all the depth that The Scarlet Letter provides. Definitely worth more than one read!more
Ugh, this was really tough to get through, even in audiobook form. The only reason that I finished it is because it was one of those "classics" that I thought I should read. I wish that I wasn't regularly disappointed with these classic books/books on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

I know that Hawthorne was trying to talk about guilt and sin but man, could it be a little more interesting? Please?more
Required reading for high school American lit. I hated it at the time, but I want to give it another go.more
Why should we read the Classics? One reason is for the history not only of the time and place; but for the ideas that have found expression through the writer. Roughly 4500 years ago, some scribe marked up The Epic of Gilgamesh into clay tablets. We have an intriguing glimpse into the time and place and some action points to string a story together; but we don't have a sense of what the characters were really thinking or what sensibility guided their thought processes. What was it like to live in a world where you perceived time as circular and cyclical, not linearly? How did the concepts of civilization, a major shift from the nomadic and animistic lifestyle change their worldview? How did the oral tradition and sense of history transmute their own sense of culture? Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will ever know because the story contains no explanation. It is no more than a historic artifact celebrated for being the oldest written story. The Classics, however, tell us more. The Classics provide a sense of "interior history," ideas that had currency when they were written and still inform our culture today.

But why should you read The Scarlet Letter? The events that make up the main body of the work were not contemporary to the writer so how could he posit a credible story that reflects a mindset of a society that he could not have possibly have experienced? But the thing is, he did. No, Hawthorne did not live in the 17th century; but he did live in a small town with a strong cultural legacy to that time and; family ties bound him to the history of which he wrote. He was living with the effects a Puritanical society that embedded itself into the political consciousness of his day and, actually still lives with us even now (Don't fool yourself that because we don't put people in stocks or force them to wear a scarlet "A" upon their breasts, that we don't excoriate adulterers, especially if they happen to be public figures.) Hawthorne builds the first bridge between the events of 1650 and 1850 by creating prologue in which he discovers the documents that purportedly contain the events of the main body of the story. The second bridge is the one created by the reader's connection to the text. The second bridge is a meta-literary experience that elevates the text from being an artifact to being historically relevant, something from which, like all history, we can extricate meaning to our current lives.

The Scarlet Letter is an exposition of how religious and political thought cohered to create an inheritance of our American culture: a paradox of sex and sexuality, religious freedom that incarcerates and the punishment that frees. Hester Prynne falls in love with a man and gets pregnant by him; but does not enjoy the benefits of marriage which apparently include not being shoved into a jail cell, being publicly called out for her sin, reminding everyone else of her indiscretion by wearing a red "A" upon her chest and, being pretty much excluded from town life. Had she been married to the man, this would not have happened. So, falling in love and having sex with the man is a sin when the sanctity of marriage is not conferred by the town-church; but falling in love and having sex with a man becomes the consecration of life affirming values when you add in the public endorsement of marriage. It's a fine line between hypocrisy and relative morality. Hester Prynne is punished for her transgression; but her moment in the the town square (wherein she is brought out before all the townspeople) is meant to be an occasion for her not only to renounce her sin; but to give up the name of her lover as well so that he too may be free of guilt. Only through renunciation can the opportunity exist for forgiveness. There is an celebratory atmosphere to the denunciation of Hester Prynne. A zealful, but compassionless event in which Hester Prynne's pride is sacrificed to the self-righteous crowd. Except that Hester doesn't renounce her sin, give up her lover's name and, the public does not forgive or even really seem inclined to do so (after all the punishment begins before the possibility of her renouncement.) Ironically, Hester Prynne's punishment actually does free her: Her isolation forms her into a woman of independent thought, devoid of the hobbling dictates of the Puritan community.

The Scarlet Letter offers a lot in terms of ideas as to who we were, who we are and through the second bridge, who we can be.

Redacted from the original blog review at dog eared copy, The Scarlet Letter; 01/03/2012.more
I just re-read this at age 64. The previous time was for American Lit class in high school. This was a totally different experience and a good one. I know I didn't appreciate the high school experience and I doubt that I entered into the characters much then. I struggled then with having to account for my reading. I should have had the dictionary by my side now too, but needed to keep reading and did quite well with context clues, I think.more
I just re-read this book for school and I'm re-rating it. I think I was too young to appreciate it when I read it the first time. The three-star rating is changing to five stars because The Scarlet Letter is pretty amazing.

I'm also changing the read date because I don't think I read "The Custom-House" and a few other parts of the book before.more
Read it as a class requirement, I like the imagery, but that is about it, not really crazy about the story, sorry. I feel like this being one of the great classics I should be doing backflips for it, but the truth is that the story just wasn't for me.more
One-sentence summary: In Puritan Boston, Hester Prynne has conceived a daughter through an affair and been marked with a scarlet A for "adultery," but she will not reveal the identity of her lover and the child's father.My rating: 4 starsWhen read: I read this in college.Why read: It was an assignment.Impressions: I read this long, long ago, but I remember that it was much more readable than I expected it to be, given Hawthorne's dense writing style, and also that the story was very compelling. Of course, secret affairs, illegitimate children and revenge are the topics of both soap operas and great literature because they usually make for compelling stories. I don't know if I'll reread this, as this period of literature is not my favorite, but I would recommend it as an important part of the canon of American literature.Current status: I have a copy of the Penguin Classics edition of this book in my library. I am not eager to reread it, but it is a possibility.more
I don't see why Chillingworth is presented as a "villain." He does nothing heinous that I've seen. He's merely getting revenge on his wife for being a cheating whore (I have zero sympathy for adulterers) and her lover. If she had shown any repentance or turned aside from her lover when he returned, I might be able to see him in a more negative light. However, she continued to protect his identity throughout the story and even goes back to him in the end. I enjoyed the story, but would have much preferred is Hester was not the focus and Chillingworth's quest for revenge (justice) had been.more
Hester Prynne commits adultery in the Puritan town of Salem, where the community punishes her with wearing a letter "A" and with ostracism.Hawthorne's classic is, of course, one of those books that doesn't really need a summary, as most American high school students have to read it sometime in their academic careers. Its archaic language and long-winded intrusive narrator make it difficult to read for fun and pleasure. Its themes of guilt, punishment, ostracism, and false piety make it rich when a good teacher can tease out the narrative. When I reread The Scarlet Letter alongside a high school student, I found myself ready to highlight passages and delve back into the investigative, analytical mode of an English major. While not one of the classics I would return to again and again for just the sheer pleasure of the story, I can see why it's become a staple of the classroom, even as I pity the poor high school students that have to struggle through it.more
I put my hands on the beating hearts of Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, they came close to escaping their time. Characters trump plot, but here the story line is viciously inescapable.more
Despite its age, the Scarlet Letter is an excellent exploration of morality, religion and hypocrisy in a setting that's obsessed with morals. If you're not the kind of person who likes the sometimes over-written style of 19th century novels, you'll probably lose Hawthorne's message in the language but it's well worth the read and shows surprisingly modern thinking for such an old book.more
I finally read this classic, and despised everyone in it. I did read it to the end, but am not impressed enough to read anything else by this author!more
As is often the case with novels from this period, Hawthorne prattles on a bit too much for my more modern tastes. A good tale, but each chapter takes too long to tell what it has to say. I prefer Dickens for period classics.more
I know it may seem hard to believe, but I did not read The Scarlet Letter before reading it as a book club selection last month. I think this may be one of the hardest books I have ever read, as I tried to understand the story with it's old world language. It seems that Hawthorne used all of his characters to symbolize various characteristics and sins.Hester is the strong-willed heroine of this story who makes a moral error in judgement. She is persecuted for he wrong-doing, but accepts the punishment from her peers. The punishment will stamp a wound on Hester's heart and taint her mind and soul for the rest of her days. Hester's conviction turned out to be a lifelong persecution, from the entire township. It was interesting to watch the attitudes of the townspeople, as sometimes they would treat her with respect and friendship, while other times treating her like a thief. She often found it easier to live in solitude to avoid accusing stares that she was sure to find.This book seemed to have a bit of flavor that reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials. I'm not sure if this book takes place before or after that period, but witchcraft is briefly mentioned in the story. With themes of symbolism, love, and truth, this book made an interesting book club discussion. With that being said I think I also need to tell you that out of our group of nine ladies, only three of us actually finished the book. It was definitely not one of our favorites and not one that I would recommend for leisure reading. I am, however, glad that I finally read this classic.more
A good book. Hawthorne knew how to get into people's minds and make them think about things. At some points you feel for Hester, and then at others you just cuss at her (to yourself and hopefully under your breath or you get weird looks in the library) for just being so stupid.A lot of people don't like this book, but I found it oddly interesting. Good, evil, heaven, hell, what's right and what's not is such a slippery slope and can engender so much meaningful dialogue.more
I re-read this novel, which has been called the first psychological novel, as part of the Masterpiece Book Club at my local library. The first time that I had read it was back in high school, and I disliked it. Being 15 and reading such a complex novel, it was any wonder why I didn’t like it.The character of Pearl transforms the most throughout the novel. She begins as a child of passion – with her wild ways (symbolized by the red rose bush outside the prison) into a child of love and morality at the end when her father dies after finally confessing his sin seven years later. Back in high school, I didn’t understand why Pearl was so naughty, but now I understand that she was the living embodiment of passion and wildness, that was so characteristic of her mother, Hester Prynne. Ultimately, Pearl becomes the moral compass of the novel – she points towards Truth. And Truth is a badge of acknowledgement of the realities of the human imperfections – especially in the Puritanical culture of shame.Now as an adult, the major themes speak volumes, as the author had originally intended. Not only is the archaic vocabulary easier to comprehend, but the overall themes of Morality and the importance of Truth reverberate throughout the ages—making The Scarlet Letter one of those timeless novels.more
The bane of many a high school English class, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter offers much to the reader who delves into its miasma of guilt, redemption, hypocrisy and zealotry. The plot is famous enough to be simply summarized as unmarried Hester Prynne gives birth to a child, refuses to name the father and is sentenced to wear a scarlet 'A' on her bosom, thus enabling the people of Puritan colonial Boston to ridicule and ostracize her. Hester's husband, long feared lost at sea, returns under the guise of a doctor with the name of Roger Chillingworth. He forgives Hester her adultery but is determined to find out the identity of the father. The father turns out to be the new, young minister, Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, who between giving eloquent sermons on the nature of sin and redemption, battles the demons of his guilt and his inability to confess publicly to his sin, as was expected of all Puritans at the time.The internal battle between Dimmesdale's conscience and his ego, the descent from medical provider to almost demonic rapscallion of Chillingworth and the steely determination of Hester to raise her daughter in the face of trememdous indifference and outright hostility from the citizenry all combine to produce a story epic in scope, if not in size. The torturous indecisiveness depicted within Dimmesdale can be compared favorably with that experienced by Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.The book would benefit greatly in its reading if a more mature audience were introduced to it than the average teenager. Most teenagers are unable to consider the consequences of their actions, let alone deal with the turbulent concept of guilt and its burden upon the soul. Through no fault of Hawthorne's do most readers come to loathe the novel. Quite the contrary, the book is exemplary in its treatment of its themes, rarely having been matched. The reader should approach the book with an understanding that secrets, and the keeping of them, have a cost that is often impossible to pay.more
I can't say I liked it, but it was an interesting study on sin and guilt and how they work on the psyche. Props where they are due and Nathaniel Hawthorne gets one for that.more
In this classic tale of adultery, Hawthorne presents sympathetic characters and a story that rings true today. The language, as in most classic novels, can sometimes be hard to understand, but the story should resonate with modern audiences nonetheless.more
Setting: The theme of sin and hypocrisy is set in a small New England town during the Puritan Era.Plot: Hester Prynne sets out to make reparation for her sin while the town seeks the father of her baby.Characters: Hester Prynne (protagonist)- scarlet letter, not sorry; Rev. Dimmesdale- hides guilt, dies of it; Roger Chillingsworth (antagonist) Hester's husband, persecutes the Rev.; Pearl- Hester's daughter, not real without familySymbols: the scarlet letter, the rose, the forestCharacteristics: example of Romanticism, first novel to have woman protagonistMy Thoughts: I enjoyed reading it through, I disagree with Hester's lack of contrition.more
One of the easier to read classics that I've encountered thus far. I enjoyed the imagery and the symbolism in the book, but the slow parts were a struggle to get through.more
I rated The Scarlet Letter 5 stars because it is a classic novel. This story is one that numerous people know and can retell. Several people that I know had to read this as required reading because this book is a staple in literature. Classroom applications could be used with this book by having a "red a day" where every student has to wear a red a on their chest to see what Hester felt like when she had to wear the A. Students can also have a class discussion on their feelings on the topics and the time period of the novel.more
This is one of the most seminal works in American Literature, but what I loved in it when I first read it as best I can recall (as a teen? young adult?) was that for me Hester Prynne is a heroine with a capital A. I was puzzled when in my recent read of Ahab's Wife Hawthorne was depicted as, well, puritanical and that critics consider the novel as patriarchal in its sentiments, because my memory of the novel was that Hawthorne's sympathies, even admiration, was with Hester.On this recent read I see no reason to change my mind, and I still consider this a by and large extraordinary novel, even if I can see flaws. Among them the opening autobiographical "introductory sketch" of a first chapter, "The Custom-House" which seemed more an intrusive settling of political scores than a suitable frame for the story--even before reading that it was more or less intended as such by Hawthorne, who had just prior to writing the novel been fired from his position at the custom-house. And admittedly, there are melodramatic romantic touches I found a bit much. (A capital "A" in the sky? Really Hawthorne?)Past that though, I'm immediately find myself gripped by the story and by Hester. It's not a long novel--about 88 thousand words, about 150 pages. We first meet Hester coming out of a prison door by which are roses that legend said bloomed at the feet of the martyred Anne Hutchinson, banished from the Puritans' Massachusetts Bay Colony for her heresies and her daring in preaching despite her female sex. Early on is mentioned that not far past is the Elizabethian Age in which a woman ruled. Hester comes out of that prison with a Scarlet "A" emblazoned on her bosom, and I can't help but admire that this is no small, demure "A" but one Hester herself elaborately embroidered with golden thread. She refuses to name the man that shares her sin even though it would mean she could take that letter off her dress rather than wear it the rest of her life. She names the child of that adultery Pearl after the "pearl of great price" and fights to keep her when the authorities are thinking of taking her child away. Hester stays true to herself throughout and never runs away. So yes, I consider her a great literary heroine. Especially when I compare her to her sister "fallen women" in literature. Compared to Hester, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina seem vain and shallow. And though Hardy's Tess obviously has the author's affection, she seems weak, a victim, compared to the strong, self-sufficient Hester Prynne. Characters such as her vengeful husband Roger Chillingworth and her fellow adulterer Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (such perfect names!) serve to only throw into greater relief her strength, compassion and redemptive arc.more
Hawthorne takes us to puritanical New England, where a woman is outcast and forced to wear a letter "A" to mark her crime of adultery. However, the story is not primarily about evil social norms. Rather, it is an exploration of openness and guilt. The woman refuses to name her lover. She allows him to escape social stigma -- or much worse. On the face of things, it seems he did better of the two, but Hawthorne explores the notion that a life of constant pretense can wear a person down. How much more carefree is the woman who has nothing more to hide. Self-esteem is tied to openness about oneself. A man with much to hide, who keeps pretending to be something he isn't, constantly chips away at his sense of self. The woman's lover is tormented by this lack of visibility to other people. "Thou little knowest what a relief it is", he confides to her, "after the torment of a seven years' cheat, to look into an eye that recognises me for what I am! Had I one friend--or were it my worst enemy!--to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby." Hawthorne makes his message explicit: "Be true!... Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred." Surely, interesting advice to ponder: honesty about your worst, sets you free from pandering to the expectations of others. In short: be yourself. It's a short, novel with a narrow theme, but well plotted, well written and well worth reading.more
Wow. Where has this been my whole life? I still have a lot more to read, but this may be the greatest American novel. Rich in language, but tight in construction. My sister said this was what an American Dostoyevsky would have been like, and I agree with her. This is one of the most intense novels about sin, guilt, and redemption, that is, about things that really matter.more
I was lucky in the fact that I was never forced to read the Scarlet Letter in school. I have heard about it and I recognize the allusions made to it during Easy A and Arthur with his scarlet letter "K"(to brand him a most unseemly knitter). So, I broke down and read it.The plot is simple: a woman is marked as an adulteress with a scarlet A and this is what happens next. That simple plot is what kept me reading until I got to the juicy part of the book. The revelation that Hester's husband isn't dead and he is out searching for her lover. There are clues out there to identify the lover but it isn't really stated until you are a good 75% way through the book. By then, you are already swept up in the story and keep reading because you want to know what happens next.The beginning of the book is a little dull, but keep pushing through it because hidden in the pages of the book is a delightful and intriguing story about the repercussions of one woman's love. 4.5 stars.more
My favorite most favorite book ever. Thank you Coach for making us reading it in the 11th grade.more
I was on a on a classics kick so I read two books and started a third. I was told on a different site I said too much so sorry. When reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne I really appreciated parts of it. I really liked it at first and then it dragged somewhat so I chose to put it down and picked up Crime and Punishment which I really really loved but I’ll save that for my next thread. I’m reading Gulliver’s Travels now and will wait to write about that one too. Like I said, I loved how Nathaniel Hathorne began the Scarlet Letter. It was set in seventeenth-century in the Puritan settlement, Boston. There is an unnamed narrator throughout the book. In the beginning of the book A young woman, Hester Prynne, walked shamefully with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her chest. She was made to wear the letter A for her crime of adultery. Hester had arrived in Boston and thought her older husband was lost at sea. She would not give up the name of the person that fathered her daughter and was publically shamed for the act. We go through the book and Pearl grows over the years. It was interesting to see the books progression over time with the initial guilt and shame at the onlookers and words of her town people as she was firm and unwavering in her humitity then to how people were descensitized by the A and only look upon her for her charity and good heart.Several years pass and Hester supported herself by working as a seamstress. She was great at her work and over time people saw that her "A" could have stood for “able” as opposed to adulterer. Pearl grew too. She was a willful and active child. Some officials wanted to take Pearl away from her mother and Hester’s response was powerful. She basically refused to allow them to take her daughter, the one thing that makes her proud and saw the beauty of God in her. Arthur Dimmesdale, a young minister, helped the mother and daughter stay together. Dimmesdale had his own psychological distress and we see how he wrestles with wanting to pay for his sins. He has heart problems, likely from the stress of guilt. Chillingworth eventually moves in with him so that he can provide his patient with round-the-clock care. Chillingworth suspected that there may be a connection between the minister’s distress and Hester’s secret so he tested Dimmesdale to see what he can learn. Chillingworth discovered a mark on the Dimmesdale’s chest which convinces him that his suspicions are correct. Chillingsworth is Hester’s husband and he was intent on retribution for the affair. Later Dimmesdale gave a heart felt sermon before they were to leave. A plan is set for Hester, Pearl and her exlover to set sail and live together as a happy family. Dimmesdale mounted the scaffold with his lover and his daughter, and confesses publicly, exposing a scarlet letter seared into his chest. He falls dead, as Pearl kisses him. Chillingworth died too. They go away for many years and then Hester returned to live in her old cottage and she continued doing her charitable work (as she always had). Pearl grew up and started a family of her own and when Hester died she was burried next to Dimmesdale. The two shared a single tombstone, which bears a scarlet “A.”This book is chalk full of intense psychological factors, shame, emotional intensity, humility, good works, love, results of lust, marriage, growth of a child and secrets. I liked it in the end and am glad I read it.more
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Reviews

I honestly feel cheated that I was never required to read this novel in either high school or college. While I found the first chapter about how the author came upon the story of Hester Prynne while working at the custom's house terribly dull, I absolutely loved the novel that followed. The Scarlet Letter is a beautiful pairing of contrasts. While Hester is marked as an adulterer--a sinner, she gives freely of her time and talents to her community. While she is forced to wear the drab attire of the Puritans, her A for adulterer is beautifully crafted. While she is well known for her sin, she seems to hold the sins of others in a secret place in her heart. While she married for stability, she feel victim to her passions. All of these elements work to make a beautifully complex character the reader cannot help but empathize with. One of the themes of the novel I most identified with is the hypocrisy of the townspeople. While many of them have committed a similar sin they are happy to point their fingers at Hester and judge her. The only exception to this rule is the young woman who waits with others outside the jailhouse door as Hester appears before the public. She symbolizes the minority thought in the beginning and in the end of the novel. Her willingness to look at the world from a different perspective provides a window into Hawthorne's analysis of society. There are so many layers to this novel, that I wish I had taken more notes, but I was too swept up in the narrative to catalog all the depth that The Scarlet Letter provides. Definitely worth more than one read!more
Ugh, this was really tough to get through, even in audiobook form. The only reason that I finished it is because it was one of those "classics" that I thought I should read. I wish that I wasn't regularly disappointed with these classic books/books on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

I know that Hawthorne was trying to talk about guilt and sin but man, could it be a little more interesting? Please?more
Required reading for high school American lit. I hated it at the time, but I want to give it another go.more
Why should we read the Classics? One reason is for the history not only of the time and place; but for the ideas that have found expression through the writer. Roughly 4500 years ago, some scribe marked up The Epic of Gilgamesh into clay tablets. We have an intriguing glimpse into the time and place and some action points to string a story together; but we don't have a sense of what the characters were really thinking or what sensibility guided their thought processes. What was it like to live in a world where you perceived time as circular and cyclical, not linearly? How did the concepts of civilization, a major shift from the nomadic and animistic lifestyle change their worldview? How did the oral tradition and sense of history transmute their own sense of culture? Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will ever know because the story contains no explanation. It is no more than a historic artifact celebrated for being the oldest written story. The Classics, however, tell us more. The Classics provide a sense of "interior history," ideas that had currency when they were written and still inform our culture today.

But why should you read The Scarlet Letter? The events that make up the main body of the work were not contemporary to the writer so how could he posit a credible story that reflects a mindset of a society that he could not have possibly have experienced? But the thing is, he did. No, Hawthorne did not live in the 17th century; but he did live in a small town with a strong cultural legacy to that time and; family ties bound him to the history of which he wrote. He was living with the effects a Puritanical society that embedded itself into the political consciousness of his day and, actually still lives with us even now (Don't fool yourself that because we don't put people in stocks or force them to wear a scarlet "A" upon their breasts, that we don't excoriate adulterers, especially if they happen to be public figures.) Hawthorne builds the first bridge between the events of 1650 and 1850 by creating prologue in which he discovers the documents that purportedly contain the events of the main body of the story. The second bridge is the one created by the reader's connection to the text. The second bridge is a meta-literary experience that elevates the text from being an artifact to being historically relevant, something from which, like all history, we can extricate meaning to our current lives.

The Scarlet Letter is an exposition of how religious and political thought cohered to create an inheritance of our American culture: a paradox of sex and sexuality, religious freedom that incarcerates and the punishment that frees. Hester Prynne falls in love with a man and gets pregnant by him; but does not enjoy the benefits of marriage which apparently include not being shoved into a jail cell, being publicly called out for her sin, reminding everyone else of her indiscretion by wearing a red "A" upon her chest and, being pretty much excluded from town life. Had she been married to the man, this would not have happened. So, falling in love and having sex with the man is a sin when the sanctity of marriage is not conferred by the town-church; but falling in love and having sex with a man becomes the consecration of life affirming values when you add in the public endorsement of marriage. It's a fine line between hypocrisy and relative morality. Hester Prynne is punished for her transgression; but her moment in the the town square (wherein she is brought out before all the townspeople) is meant to be an occasion for her not only to renounce her sin; but to give up the name of her lover as well so that he too may be free of guilt. Only through renunciation can the opportunity exist for forgiveness. There is an celebratory atmosphere to the denunciation of Hester Prynne. A zealful, but compassionless event in which Hester Prynne's pride is sacrificed to the self-righteous crowd. Except that Hester doesn't renounce her sin, give up her lover's name and, the public does not forgive or even really seem inclined to do so (after all the punishment begins before the possibility of her renouncement.) Ironically, Hester Prynne's punishment actually does free her: Her isolation forms her into a woman of independent thought, devoid of the hobbling dictates of the Puritan community.

The Scarlet Letter offers a lot in terms of ideas as to who we were, who we are and through the second bridge, who we can be.

Redacted from the original blog review at dog eared copy, The Scarlet Letter; 01/03/2012.more
I just re-read this at age 64. The previous time was for American Lit class in high school. This was a totally different experience and a good one. I know I didn't appreciate the high school experience and I doubt that I entered into the characters much then. I struggled then with having to account for my reading. I should have had the dictionary by my side now too, but needed to keep reading and did quite well with context clues, I think.more
I just re-read this book for school and I'm re-rating it. I think I was too young to appreciate it when I read it the first time. The three-star rating is changing to five stars because The Scarlet Letter is pretty amazing.

I'm also changing the read date because I don't think I read "The Custom-House" and a few other parts of the book before.more
Read it as a class requirement, I like the imagery, but that is about it, not really crazy about the story, sorry. I feel like this being one of the great classics I should be doing backflips for it, but the truth is that the story just wasn't for me.more
One-sentence summary: In Puritan Boston, Hester Prynne has conceived a daughter through an affair and been marked with a scarlet A for "adultery," but she will not reveal the identity of her lover and the child's father.My rating: 4 starsWhen read: I read this in college.Why read: It was an assignment.Impressions: I read this long, long ago, but I remember that it was much more readable than I expected it to be, given Hawthorne's dense writing style, and also that the story was very compelling. Of course, secret affairs, illegitimate children and revenge are the topics of both soap operas and great literature because they usually make for compelling stories. I don't know if I'll reread this, as this period of literature is not my favorite, but I would recommend it as an important part of the canon of American literature.Current status: I have a copy of the Penguin Classics edition of this book in my library. I am not eager to reread it, but it is a possibility.more
I don't see why Chillingworth is presented as a "villain." He does nothing heinous that I've seen. He's merely getting revenge on his wife for being a cheating whore (I have zero sympathy for adulterers) and her lover. If she had shown any repentance or turned aside from her lover when he returned, I might be able to see him in a more negative light. However, she continued to protect his identity throughout the story and even goes back to him in the end. I enjoyed the story, but would have much preferred is Hester was not the focus and Chillingworth's quest for revenge (justice) had been.more
Hester Prynne commits adultery in the Puritan town of Salem, where the community punishes her with wearing a letter "A" and with ostracism.Hawthorne's classic is, of course, one of those books that doesn't really need a summary, as most American high school students have to read it sometime in their academic careers. Its archaic language and long-winded intrusive narrator make it difficult to read for fun and pleasure. Its themes of guilt, punishment, ostracism, and false piety make it rich when a good teacher can tease out the narrative. When I reread The Scarlet Letter alongside a high school student, I found myself ready to highlight passages and delve back into the investigative, analytical mode of an English major. While not one of the classics I would return to again and again for just the sheer pleasure of the story, I can see why it's become a staple of the classroom, even as I pity the poor high school students that have to struggle through it.more
I put my hands on the beating hearts of Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, they came close to escaping their time. Characters trump plot, but here the story line is viciously inescapable.more
Despite its age, the Scarlet Letter is an excellent exploration of morality, religion and hypocrisy in a setting that's obsessed with morals. If you're not the kind of person who likes the sometimes over-written style of 19th century novels, you'll probably lose Hawthorne's message in the language but it's well worth the read and shows surprisingly modern thinking for such an old book.more
I finally read this classic, and despised everyone in it. I did read it to the end, but am not impressed enough to read anything else by this author!more
As is often the case with novels from this period, Hawthorne prattles on a bit too much for my more modern tastes. A good tale, but each chapter takes too long to tell what it has to say. I prefer Dickens for period classics.more
I know it may seem hard to believe, but I did not read The Scarlet Letter before reading it as a book club selection last month. I think this may be one of the hardest books I have ever read, as I tried to understand the story with it's old world language. It seems that Hawthorne used all of his characters to symbolize various characteristics and sins.Hester is the strong-willed heroine of this story who makes a moral error in judgement. She is persecuted for he wrong-doing, but accepts the punishment from her peers. The punishment will stamp a wound on Hester's heart and taint her mind and soul for the rest of her days. Hester's conviction turned out to be a lifelong persecution, from the entire township. It was interesting to watch the attitudes of the townspeople, as sometimes they would treat her with respect and friendship, while other times treating her like a thief. She often found it easier to live in solitude to avoid accusing stares that she was sure to find.This book seemed to have a bit of flavor that reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials. I'm not sure if this book takes place before or after that period, but witchcraft is briefly mentioned in the story. With themes of symbolism, love, and truth, this book made an interesting book club discussion. With that being said I think I also need to tell you that out of our group of nine ladies, only three of us actually finished the book. It was definitely not one of our favorites and not one that I would recommend for leisure reading. I am, however, glad that I finally read this classic.more
A good book. Hawthorne knew how to get into people's minds and make them think about things. At some points you feel for Hester, and then at others you just cuss at her (to yourself and hopefully under your breath or you get weird looks in the library) for just being so stupid.A lot of people don't like this book, but I found it oddly interesting. Good, evil, heaven, hell, what's right and what's not is such a slippery slope and can engender so much meaningful dialogue.more
I re-read this novel, which has been called the first psychological novel, as part of the Masterpiece Book Club at my local library. The first time that I had read it was back in high school, and I disliked it. Being 15 and reading such a complex novel, it was any wonder why I didn’t like it.The character of Pearl transforms the most throughout the novel. She begins as a child of passion – with her wild ways (symbolized by the red rose bush outside the prison) into a child of love and morality at the end when her father dies after finally confessing his sin seven years later. Back in high school, I didn’t understand why Pearl was so naughty, but now I understand that she was the living embodiment of passion and wildness, that was so characteristic of her mother, Hester Prynne. Ultimately, Pearl becomes the moral compass of the novel – she points towards Truth. And Truth is a badge of acknowledgement of the realities of the human imperfections – especially in the Puritanical culture of shame.Now as an adult, the major themes speak volumes, as the author had originally intended. Not only is the archaic vocabulary easier to comprehend, but the overall themes of Morality and the importance of Truth reverberate throughout the ages—making The Scarlet Letter one of those timeless novels.more
The bane of many a high school English class, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter offers much to the reader who delves into its miasma of guilt, redemption, hypocrisy and zealotry. The plot is famous enough to be simply summarized as unmarried Hester Prynne gives birth to a child, refuses to name the father and is sentenced to wear a scarlet 'A' on her bosom, thus enabling the people of Puritan colonial Boston to ridicule and ostracize her. Hester's husband, long feared lost at sea, returns under the guise of a doctor with the name of Roger Chillingworth. He forgives Hester her adultery but is determined to find out the identity of the father. The father turns out to be the new, young minister, Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, who between giving eloquent sermons on the nature of sin and redemption, battles the demons of his guilt and his inability to confess publicly to his sin, as was expected of all Puritans at the time.The internal battle between Dimmesdale's conscience and his ego, the descent from medical provider to almost demonic rapscallion of Chillingworth and the steely determination of Hester to raise her daughter in the face of trememdous indifference and outright hostility from the citizenry all combine to produce a story epic in scope, if not in size. The torturous indecisiveness depicted within Dimmesdale can be compared favorably with that experienced by Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.The book would benefit greatly in its reading if a more mature audience were introduced to it than the average teenager. Most teenagers are unable to consider the consequences of their actions, let alone deal with the turbulent concept of guilt and its burden upon the soul. Through no fault of Hawthorne's do most readers come to loathe the novel. Quite the contrary, the book is exemplary in its treatment of its themes, rarely having been matched. The reader should approach the book with an understanding that secrets, and the keeping of them, have a cost that is often impossible to pay.more
I can't say I liked it, but it was an interesting study on sin and guilt and how they work on the psyche. Props where they are due and Nathaniel Hawthorne gets one for that.more
In this classic tale of adultery, Hawthorne presents sympathetic characters and a story that rings true today. The language, as in most classic novels, can sometimes be hard to understand, but the story should resonate with modern audiences nonetheless.more
Setting: The theme of sin and hypocrisy is set in a small New England town during the Puritan Era.Plot: Hester Prynne sets out to make reparation for her sin while the town seeks the father of her baby.Characters: Hester Prynne (protagonist)- scarlet letter, not sorry; Rev. Dimmesdale- hides guilt, dies of it; Roger Chillingsworth (antagonist) Hester's husband, persecutes the Rev.; Pearl- Hester's daughter, not real without familySymbols: the scarlet letter, the rose, the forestCharacteristics: example of Romanticism, first novel to have woman protagonistMy Thoughts: I enjoyed reading it through, I disagree with Hester's lack of contrition.more
One of the easier to read classics that I've encountered thus far. I enjoyed the imagery and the symbolism in the book, but the slow parts were a struggle to get through.more
I rated The Scarlet Letter 5 stars because it is a classic novel. This story is one that numerous people know and can retell. Several people that I know had to read this as required reading because this book is a staple in literature. Classroom applications could be used with this book by having a "red a day" where every student has to wear a red a on their chest to see what Hester felt like when she had to wear the A. Students can also have a class discussion on their feelings on the topics and the time period of the novel.more
This is one of the most seminal works in American Literature, but what I loved in it when I first read it as best I can recall (as a teen? young adult?) was that for me Hester Prynne is a heroine with a capital A. I was puzzled when in my recent read of Ahab's Wife Hawthorne was depicted as, well, puritanical and that critics consider the novel as patriarchal in its sentiments, because my memory of the novel was that Hawthorne's sympathies, even admiration, was with Hester.On this recent read I see no reason to change my mind, and I still consider this a by and large extraordinary novel, even if I can see flaws. Among them the opening autobiographical "introductory sketch" of a first chapter, "The Custom-House" which seemed more an intrusive settling of political scores than a suitable frame for the story--even before reading that it was more or less intended as such by Hawthorne, who had just prior to writing the novel been fired from his position at the custom-house. And admittedly, there are melodramatic romantic touches I found a bit much. (A capital "A" in the sky? Really Hawthorne?)Past that though, I'm immediately find myself gripped by the story and by Hester. It's not a long novel--about 88 thousand words, about 150 pages. We first meet Hester coming out of a prison door by which are roses that legend said bloomed at the feet of the martyred Anne Hutchinson, banished from the Puritans' Massachusetts Bay Colony for her heresies and her daring in preaching despite her female sex. Early on is mentioned that not far past is the Elizabethian Age in which a woman ruled. Hester comes out of that prison with a Scarlet "A" emblazoned on her bosom, and I can't help but admire that this is no small, demure "A" but one Hester herself elaborately embroidered with golden thread. She refuses to name the man that shares her sin even though it would mean she could take that letter off her dress rather than wear it the rest of her life. She names the child of that adultery Pearl after the "pearl of great price" and fights to keep her when the authorities are thinking of taking her child away. Hester stays true to herself throughout and never runs away. So yes, I consider her a great literary heroine. Especially when I compare her to her sister "fallen women" in literature. Compared to Hester, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina seem vain and shallow. And though Hardy's Tess obviously has the author's affection, she seems weak, a victim, compared to the strong, self-sufficient Hester Prynne. Characters such as her vengeful husband Roger Chillingworth and her fellow adulterer Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (such perfect names!) serve to only throw into greater relief her strength, compassion and redemptive arc.more
Hawthorne takes us to puritanical New England, where a woman is outcast and forced to wear a letter "A" to mark her crime of adultery. However, the story is not primarily about evil social norms. Rather, it is an exploration of openness and guilt. The woman refuses to name her lover. She allows him to escape social stigma -- or much worse. On the face of things, it seems he did better of the two, but Hawthorne explores the notion that a life of constant pretense can wear a person down. How much more carefree is the woman who has nothing more to hide. Self-esteem is tied to openness about oneself. A man with much to hide, who keeps pretending to be something he isn't, constantly chips away at his sense of self. The woman's lover is tormented by this lack of visibility to other people. "Thou little knowest what a relief it is", he confides to her, "after the torment of a seven years' cheat, to look into an eye that recognises me for what I am! Had I one friend--or were it my worst enemy!--to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby." Hawthorne makes his message explicit: "Be true!... Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred." Surely, interesting advice to ponder: honesty about your worst, sets you free from pandering to the expectations of others. In short: be yourself. It's a short, novel with a narrow theme, but well plotted, well written and well worth reading.more
Wow. Where has this been my whole life? I still have a lot more to read, but this may be the greatest American novel. Rich in language, but tight in construction. My sister said this was what an American Dostoyevsky would have been like, and I agree with her. This is one of the most intense novels about sin, guilt, and redemption, that is, about things that really matter.more
I was lucky in the fact that I was never forced to read the Scarlet Letter in school. I have heard about it and I recognize the allusions made to it during Easy A and Arthur with his scarlet letter "K"(to brand him a most unseemly knitter). So, I broke down and read it.The plot is simple: a woman is marked as an adulteress with a scarlet A and this is what happens next. That simple plot is what kept me reading until I got to the juicy part of the book. The revelation that Hester's husband isn't dead and he is out searching for her lover. There are clues out there to identify the lover but it isn't really stated until you are a good 75% way through the book. By then, you are already swept up in the story and keep reading because you want to know what happens next.The beginning of the book is a little dull, but keep pushing through it because hidden in the pages of the book is a delightful and intriguing story about the repercussions of one woman's love. 4.5 stars.more
My favorite most favorite book ever. Thank you Coach for making us reading it in the 11th grade.more
I was on a on a classics kick so I read two books and started a third. I was told on a different site I said too much so sorry. When reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne I really appreciated parts of it. I really liked it at first and then it dragged somewhat so I chose to put it down and picked up Crime and Punishment which I really really loved but I’ll save that for my next thread. I’m reading Gulliver’s Travels now and will wait to write about that one too. Like I said, I loved how Nathaniel Hathorne began the Scarlet Letter. It was set in seventeenth-century in the Puritan settlement, Boston. There is an unnamed narrator throughout the book. In the beginning of the book A young woman, Hester Prynne, walked shamefully with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her chest. She was made to wear the letter A for her crime of adultery. Hester had arrived in Boston and thought her older husband was lost at sea. She would not give up the name of the person that fathered her daughter and was publically shamed for the act. We go through the book and Pearl grows over the years. It was interesting to see the books progression over time with the initial guilt and shame at the onlookers and words of her town people as she was firm and unwavering in her humitity then to how people were descensitized by the A and only look upon her for her charity and good heart.Several years pass and Hester supported herself by working as a seamstress. She was great at her work and over time people saw that her "A" could have stood for “able” as opposed to adulterer. Pearl grew too. She was a willful and active child. Some officials wanted to take Pearl away from her mother and Hester’s response was powerful. She basically refused to allow them to take her daughter, the one thing that makes her proud and saw the beauty of God in her. Arthur Dimmesdale, a young minister, helped the mother and daughter stay together. Dimmesdale had his own psychological distress and we see how he wrestles with wanting to pay for his sins. He has heart problems, likely from the stress of guilt. Chillingworth eventually moves in with him so that he can provide his patient with round-the-clock care. Chillingworth suspected that there may be a connection between the minister’s distress and Hester’s secret so he tested Dimmesdale to see what he can learn. Chillingworth discovered a mark on the Dimmesdale’s chest which convinces him that his suspicions are correct. Chillingsworth is Hester’s husband and he was intent on retribution for the affair. Later Dimmesdale gave a heart felt sermon before they were to leave. A plan is set for Hester, Pearl and her exlover to set sail and live together as a happy family. Dimmesdale mounted the scaffold with his lover and his daughter, and confesses publicly, exposing a scarlet letter seared into his chest. He falls dead, as Pearl kisses him. Chillingworth died too. They go away for many years and then Hester returned to live in her old cottage and she continued doing her charitable work (as she always had). Pearl grew up and started a family of her own and when Hester died she was burried next to Dimmesdale. The two shared a single tombstone, which bears a scarlet “A.”This book is chalk full of intense psychological factors, shame, emotional intensity, humility, good works, love, results of lust, marriage, growth of a child and secrets. I liked it in the end and am glad I read it.more
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