Summary: Sin, Redemption
Comment: I think the many readers who were forced to partake of this classic were angry at their English teacher for making them read a book so wordy, detailed, and archaic in language. Many of the reviewers' complaints are about the author's style, which is definitely an acquired taste. Hawthorne doesn't merely give you a scene; he tries to tell you what time it is, how and why it is happening, and what each character is thinking as they enter the room. In this way, this can be a turn off to a leisurely reader; it may even be a turn off to an avid reader. The bottom line is that The Scarlet Letter, maybe more so than any other classic, is definitely a matter of style. I tend to admire the book because I can over look some of Hawthorne's unorthodox styles and look for a deeper meaning; if you happen to feel this way, great, if not, then maybe it just wasn't your kind of book.
The main subject in The Scarlet Letter is sin--but not only the sin of adultery (Hester and Dimmesdale). There is also the sin of jealousy and revenge (Chillingworth) as well as the sin of hypocrisy and gossip (Puritan community). Hawthorne's opinion of the hypocrisy of the Puritans seems to be illustrated in the opening scene with Hester coming out of the prison door we hear the Puritan women making besmirching comments about Hester, and one even wanting death for Hester because of her sin--this reaction from a do-good community! The main crux of the story though, as alluded to, is about Hester and Dimmesdale's sin of adultery, and, more importantly, how each of the two protagonists deal with their sin. While Hester's sin is spread out in the public eye of the New England community, and she is shamed publicly, Dimmesdale's sin is hidden, as no one except he, Hester and Chillingworth knows about it. In this way, there are two very paths that follow for Hester and the Reverend Dimmesdale. Hester, after her initial public humiliation and shame, begins life anew, and is able to find a hobby (that of a seamstress) to make ends meet, and her suffering seems to make her able to take on the challenges in life. She is able to deal with the questions and mischievousness from her daughter Pearl, and seems to implore Dimmesdale, who is obviously overcome with guilt, to forget their sin and live free. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, takes his sin very harshly, and not only feels he must punish himself for it, but physically becomes a shell of his former self. Still, Dimmesdale has a remarkable power to still give amazing sermons to the community, even with guilt. Chillingworth, Hester's ex-husband, enters the scene early in the book, and begins to "peck" away at Dimmesdale, knowing full-well that he can break him down mentally and physically with such a weight on his shoulders. During the scenes where Chillingworth is probing the mind of Dimmesdale, there seems to be a symbolic parallel between Chillingworth and the devil (there are several references to Chillingworth being the "black man" in the novel). Dimmesdale can't save himself physically, but he can spiritually. Hester emerges as the novel's hero, mainly because she sheds her former faults, and becomes a stronger person in the process.
The Scarlet Letter is definitely "heavy" reading. It might take you a few times to get through a few of the chapters. But, alas, persevere, and you may find it worth reading. And, take some advice: skip the introductory chapter "The Custom House" and just begin reading with "The Prison Door." I can give you a quick synopsis of the introduction: Hawthorne wrote a book about two people who sinned by committing adultery, and the Puritans weren't happy. As much as people say this book is outdated, it really isn't. I mean, public scandals are a part of our culture just as much as they were then. Hester Prynne is that public scandal, the story you hear on the news or other media outlets. Public infamy, as well as changing public perception, seems to never go out of style.
3 ¬Ĺ stars
Summary: Hawthorne's Masterpiece
Comment: Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is a tale of secret love, adultery, and sadness. Every person should read this timeless American novel at some point in their life. The strength of Hester Prynne is unusual for novels composed during the time this was published, and is therefore a revolutionary literary work. My only complaint is the length of "The Custom House," however horrible this sounds, I would just skip it, it does not add to the plot of the novel anyway.
Summary: A wonderful piece of literature, however
Comment: I completely agree with most HS students that this book should be optional reading for them because HS teachers should very well know that there are many different minds that need very different kinds of reading material and exposure to variety is not always a good thing that's why you end up having reviews of books like this by some HS students who puke on it rather then have savored it like I did. My reasons for really loving this book is because of the historical/puritan life and manners I like to read about, I love human struggle and the need to understand inner feelings of character, and I like knowing about how communities deal with religious matters. Can you blame me for being such a sentimental person? Yes, the book is written at the 5th grade level, and some people still do read at that level so this may be a reason why it's survived for such a long time. In any case, don't have it on your book shelf if it's not your cup of tea; with me, it will always be a treasure.
Summary: Useful for AP Lit
Comment: I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter for my Advanced English 11 class. This is not a book I would normally have picked up and read, but I am glad that I read it.
The Scarlet Letter deals with themes of love, society's oppression, secrets, a character finding herself, as well as numerous other classic literature themes. I found the book itself to be challenging to read, but I liked the story. Hawthorne explores when feelings and passion conflict with religion, which was fascinating to consider from a religious perspective.
Although I did not enjoy the book much at the time I had to read it, it proved to be quite useful when I took the AP Literature and Composition Test this year. When I had to choose one book to frantically review the day before the test, this is the book I chose. Sure enough, this is the book I used for the AP test as a reference.
This is an essential book for anyone taking AP Literature.
Summary: Timeless Classic
Comment: I enjoyed this book a lot, once I got past the slow parts. Hester Prynne is found pregnant out of wedlock. Since she won't reveal the identity of the father, she is forced to wear the Scarlet Letter "A" on her chest for the rest of her life. She gives birth to a girl and she changes her life around, so at the end of the book, people refer to her as "Angel" instead of "Adulterer."
This is a timeless tale because the situation could easily happen in any time period. When we do something wrong, the way we live our lives afterwards is the determining factor of our moral character. One event does not define us. It's our entire lives that should be taken into account. I think that is Nathaniel Hawthorne's point. Redemption is possible for anyone, regardless of their sin. Also, the father who remained unknown to the society but not the reader, suffers enormously because he doesn't confess. This is a good point. When we hide our sins, the only person it ultimately hurts, is us.