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1001 Book Review: The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
First published in: 1850
Reviewed by: Book Worm & Jen
Find it/buy it here (free on kindle): The Scarlet Letter (Dover Thrift Editions)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.

Book Worm’s Review:
Set in a Puritan New England town in the 1640’s, this is the story of Hester Prynne, a woman who has committed adultery and bears a child. As punishment she is forced to wear a scarlet letter A on her clothing. While she lives with her punishment and her sin, she refuses to name the child’s father — something that she will eventually come to regret for his sake.

What I enjoyed about this book was the portrayal of how a religious community treats a sinner. By accepting her sin and punishment, Hester becomes separate but accepted by the people she lives with. I liked the way Hawthorne portrayed the different ways of living with guilt and these ways can affect the health of a person.  The father is easy to guess, but his discovery is not the book’s primary concern.  Instead, it is to show how father and mother dealt with their sin seperately and what it cost them both individually and as part of a close knit community.

A good read!

Jen’s Review:
I first read the Scarlet Letter in middle school and remember liking it quite a bit. When I looked at my Goodreads rating I had given it 4 stars. This year I listened to it rather than read it. Perhaps this was a mistake because I found it very dry and my mind was constantly wandering. The archaic language further reduced my engagement.

There’s no question that it was an influential book that highlighted the problems inherent in Puritan morality. Hawthorne wrote about the nature of evil, sin, morality, and personal growth and identity. His books were psychologically complex and his portrayal of women was ahead of his times. Hester Prynne is perhaps one of the best-known female protagonists and is considered by many to be the first heroine of American fiction. You can find an interesting article about some of the history behind the Scarlett Letter and Hawthorne’s America here.

It’s probably unfair of me to rate it 3 stars based on the audio version and maybe I should just let my 4-star rating from my first read be one that counts. It is on several lists of best books including the 1001 list and The Guardian‘s 100 best novels. I am guessing that almost everyone has read this novel since it’s on many school curriculums in the U.S. It’s a very short story so if by some miracle you haven’t read it, you should try it out of your self. You can find it for free on Amazon (or a number of other places including project Gutenberg): The Scarlet Letter (Dover Thrift Editions)

Have you read the Scarlett Letter? When did you read it? What did you think about it? Check out the 2015 movie trailer below.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. shereekuwtp #

    I read The Scarlet Letter for the first time not too long ago. I can’t say I loved it, but I’m glad to have read it (if that makes sense at all). I thought it lacked subtlety – Hawthorne seemed pretty determined to hammer his point home (you hate the Puritans, they’re hypocrites, we get it). Still, I also felt like I was perhaps not putting in enough effort as a reader to understand the context of its publication, trying to put 21st-century eyes to a 19th-century book. Really appreciated reading the thoughts of your reviewers here, thanks for sharing! 🙂


    February 14, 2018

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