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Hailed by Henry James as "the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country," Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter reaches to our nation's historical and moral roots for the material of great tragedy. Set in an early New England colony, the novel shows the terrible impact a single, passionate act has on the lives of three members of the community: the defiant Hester Prynne; the fiery, tortured Reverend Dimmesdale; and the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth.

With The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne became the first American novelist to forge from our Puritan heritage a universal classic, a masterful exploration of humanity's unending struggle with sin, guilt and pride.
Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780553897364
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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
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
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
Required reading for high school American lit. I hated it at the time, but I want to give it another go.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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Read all 239 reviews

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
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
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
Required reading for high school American lit. I hated it at the time, but I want to give it another go.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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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