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The Scarlet Letter

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  525,142 Ratings  ·  10,520 Reviews
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: th ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published September 19th 2000 by Modern Library (first published March 16th 1850)
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Dawn I suggest trying some other books from the same time period first to familiarize yourself with the language. Goodreads has lists of the Best Books of…moreI suggest trying some other books from the same time period first to familiarize yourself with the language. Goodreads has lists of the Best Books of the 19th Century and the Best Books of the 18th Century. They have some easier books and some harder books. Most of them are public domain and therefore free electronic copies are available.(less)
Rachel The simple answer is yes. I hope you have. I am making a habit of re-reading this book. It was the only classic that had interested me in high school,…moreThe simple answer is yes. I hope you have. I am making a habit of re-reading this book. It was the only classic that had interested me in high school, but I didn't get too into it, past the way that Emma Stone's character does in Easy A. I related to it, a little superficially... Don't most teens feel like a persecuted outcast sometimes? But, the older I get and the more I experience in my life, it carries more meaning each year and the characters become more vivid to me. There's so much to glean from it. It can raise so many questions. I mean, there's food for thought in there about society, religion, spirituality, honesty, crime and punishment, morality, the separation of church and state, relationships, fidelity, friendship, parenthood, grief. If you really look there are interesting possibilities for food for thought when it comes to psychology for sure. If you enjoy imagery, and if you are a sucker for a metaphor, it definitely delivers there. Having said that, Nathaniel Hawthorne was a wordy SOB. If this is all that stops you from reading it, skip the customs house and press on.(less)

Community Reviews

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Oct 17, 2007 Johntaylor1973 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Marquis deSade
I found my old high school review of this book. Here's a little bit of my assessment. Apologiese in advance:

If there is a hell, Hawthorne is the devil's sidekick, and the first thing you're given (after the stark realization that you're in hell, on fire, and this is going to last forever) is this book. And you have to do a 10 page paper praising the wondrous virtues of this massive waste of time. And after you've finished writing (in your own blood, mind you) your stupid paper, you are given an
Melissa Rudder
Sep 28, 2011 Melissa Rudder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teach-it
This was my third time reading The Scarlet Letter. The first time was during my junior year of high school. I actually enjoyed it, though literature of the nineteenth century was such a mystery to me then that I shied away from the creaky long words and felt proud of myself for succeeding in merely following the plot. When I first read it to teach it last year, I was enraptured. This year was the same. Hawthorne has such an impressive command over language. The eloquence of his language carries ...more
May 07, 2008 Werner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any reader who doesn't mind 19th-century diction
Actually, I've read this book twice, the first time when I was in high school. Reading it again after some thirty years, I was amazed at the amount of meaning I'd missed the first time!

Most modern readers don't realize (and certainly aren't taught in school) that Hawthorne --as his fiction, essays and journals make clear-- was a strong Christian, though he steadfastly refused to join a denomination; and here his central subject is the central subject of the Christian gospel: sin's guilt and forg
Heather Lei
Jun 30, 2008 Heather Lei rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The story, not bad. The style, unreadable.

Here is who I would recommend this book to - people who like sentences with 4 or 5 thoughts, and that are paragraph length - so that they are nearly impossible to understand - because by the time the end, of the sentence, has been reached the beginning, and whatever meaning it contained, has been forgotten and the point is lost.
Mar 22, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best advice anyone can get about The Scarlet Letter is to skip the whole introductory bit about the Chapter House, unless you want a degree in English. I love this book; I teach this book, but I have my students skip that introduction. It'll make them hate the book.

Once you have skipped that part, what greets you is a wonderful book about the nature and defination of sin. Is it the outward sin, such as Hester's, that is the worse? Or is it the sin that never really comes to light? The book e
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
Another required read that took me by surprise at how much I enjoyed it. This is a book that delves into the consequences of guilt on a person's psyche. It is very layered in that there are times where you are not sure that what happens is exactly what is perceived. No exactly surreal but written so that there is a little bit of question about supernatural things happening. Such as did Dimmesdale really have that scarlet A branded on his chest from the power of the overwhelming guilt he carried? ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hester walked across the room. She stepped upon her left foot, her right foot, and then her left foot again. One wonders, why doth she, in this instance of walking across the room, begin her journey upon the left foot and not the right? Could it be her terrible sin, that the devil informeth the left foot just as he informeth the left hand and those bewitched, left-handed persons amongst us? Why, forsooth, doth the left foot of sin draggeth the innocent right foot along its wretched journey from ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 15, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, saddest, drama
My second book read that was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) who was said to be the "Shakespeare of the American Literature."

Whoa. I only read one book of Shakespeare but I have an idea of the others. I hope it is not only the use of "thee" and "thou" that lead to the comparison. For me, this book The Scarlet Letter is also theatrical and dramatic. For example, the opening scene where the adulterer and the main female protagonist of this book, Hester Prynne is on the scaffold (stage)
***I WROTE THIS REVIEW AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL (but I still hate this book)***

The Scarlet Letter: THE WORST book I've had to read so far. I can't believe Ive actually finished this.
No, Nathaniel, it was not necessary to describe every single leaf on every single tree. you did NOT need talk about every single breeze that blew through the stupid village of those dumbass Puritains. Hawthorne, I will never read any more of your writings. EVER. I hate Puritains.

seriously, I think I would rathe
Eddie Watkins
Sep 30, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
Ben Loory
Dec 22, 2010 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
okay, so shoot me, i never read this before. well, i tried a couple times, in high school and college, but the opening part, the introduction about the custom-house, was always so incredibly boring i could never get past it. so this time, i got past it, and now all i have to say is: why the fuck is that custom-house thing there in the beginning?? (although the part where he finds the letter is nice.)
Nathaniel Hawthorne is the coolest name ever.

I can see why people dislike this book, though. Hawthorne doesn't hesitate to use a lot of words. He prefers to perforate his readers' craniums with an extensive utilization of verbose language, thus intimidating and irritating those whose literary palettes do not include grandiose diction.

Reading The Scarlet Letter relieved me. I'd take rambling paragraphs and stocky sentences over quadratic equations and piecewise functions any day. Besides, his wri
Kat Kennedy
Modern society and a number of people seem somewhat confused about our ancestors. On one hand, they're dumbass peasants who attached BYOW (Bring Your Own Witch) to their barbeque invitations. On the other hand, they sometimes imbue them with super mystical intelligence, class and abilities whilst bemoaning how stupid and uncouth we have become in comparison.

The Scarlet Letter allows us to judge that the reality was somewhere in between but mostly sitting on the side of pathological stupidity.

Peter Derk
It's great to finally get back to the classics. It's been far too long since I read a book with careful intensity, noting throwaway lines that are likely to show up on a multiple choice or short answer test that misses the main themes of a book entirely while managing to ask lots of questions like, "In the fourth chapter, what kind of shoes was [character you don't even remember] wearing?"

I was thinking maybe it would be nice to read a book like this without worrying about that stuff, just absor
Aug 27, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of good, wordy prose, and symbolism
Recommended to Jason by: A friend and my 11th grade English teacher
Shelves: classics, 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily May
Aug 18, 2012 Emily May rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
So I finally got to find out for myself what the majority of American high-schoolers are subjected to, and while I see the importance of a story like this and the ideas it presents in 1850, I think the subject matter is both outdated and irrelevant today. One might, of course, choose to point out that Hester Prynne's antics would still today be considered immoral in certain parts of the world, however the difference is that they probably wouldn't treat her so leniently as this seventeenth-centur ...more
Boom! Another case of youthful idiocy corrected.

Probably the biggest problem with The Scarlet Letter is that we make kids read it while they’re still too dumb to appreciate it. I was one of those dumb kids who thought it was over-written and dull. And yeah, it is over-written, but sort of in the same way that zombie scenes in The Walking Dead are over-written. It’s not a bad thing! And but by no means is this book dull, either. I was engaged from start to finish.

For those who have never heard of
Apr 10, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, read-2014
Salem, Massachusetts, the setting for The Scarlet Letter is just a wonderful place to visit, and Hawthorne's very descriptive detail of the small town, its old wooden buildings and local witchery made me want to walk the streets again, but certainly not back in Puritanical times. (I did meet a real witch when I was there though...I think)

This classic novel is absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be or remember of the movie so I was totally surprised as I read along. It is dark, full o

Jun 09, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read The Scarlet Letter in high school and enjoyed it. I have also seen the film a few years ago with Demi Moore, meh.

What still draws me to this book, and to the subject as a whole, was Hester's overwhelming self confidence. Her stance, and how can it be anything else, is one of courage and tenacity. I understand also that her penance could be so sincere as to name her child Scarlet and dress her always in red, but the quality of the dresses and the simple pride with which she stands is stil

The Scarlet Letter is as boring as everyone tells you it is. I’m usually a big fan of classics but this is officially one of my least favorites. The premise of it was actually really interesting. I was excited to see how an adulterous woman’s life would be like in a the Puritan days of the American colonies society BUT, the writing killed it for me. Nathaniel Hawthorn is not for me. Nop.

Unfortunately, I found myself bored throughout the whole thing. I know there’s some major symbolism i
Renato Magalhães Rocha
Let me start my review by stating that I'm guilty and should wear a big "P" (for "preoccupied") on my chest. I mentioned in a previous review that I was worried that if I wasn't in the right state of mind and in an adequate setting, I wouldn't be able to enjoy Dickens's Great Expectations - turned out it wasn't the case. I never expected that for The Scarlet Letter, but this might be one of the reasons I didn't enjoy the book that much and rated it 3 stars: I was in the middle of preparations to ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I tried reading this a few years ago and bogged down in the infamous introductory section, and quit. I need to give it another shot, though. Sneaky GR friends have told me that that section can be skipped, or skimmed....
Apr 27, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
Nathaniel Hawthorne is an easy writer to dislike. He's stuffy and moralistic and he says "thou" a lot and he just makes you want to roll your eyes. And it doesn't help that if you read him it was probably in ninth grade, the apogee of human eyerolling.

He loves to rail about how shitty the Puritans were, stemming maybe from his own guilt over having a Salem witch-burning ancestor - Hawthorne's personal brand of secret shame. But the Puritans were such tightassed joykills that there's room to do a
Aug 16, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novels
Another one of those classics that I probably should have read years ago but didn’t. Written in around 1850 and set in Puritan New England in the mid 17th Century, the plot is well known, but if you haven’t read it there are spoilers ahead. Hester Prynne travels to New England; her husband is to follow later. She has an affair with the local minister Arthur Dimmesdale and a child results. Adultery is a major offence and Hester Prynne experiences jail and public humiliation and is forced to wear ...more

This is one of those books which can effortlessly lend itself to a variety of critical readings, each one of them as legitimate as the next one. On one hand it treats Hester almost like a proto-feminist figure, undaunted and dignified in the face of public disgrace, one who earns her own living to raise her child and on the other, she is readily accepting of her own persecution.

Similarly, Dimmesdale is torn between his emotional urges and his allegiance to a doctrine which denies him his h
helen the bookowl
While I love reading classics and often find myself reading one, I have found out that this specific classic, The Scarlet Letter, is amongst my least favourites. This was a reread for me, and while I did somewhat enjoy it the first time around, I was very bored when reading it this time around. The story in itself is actually quite interesting; because of adultery, Hester Prynne is considered an outcast and must bear a scarlet letter at all times. However, I really dislike the way Nathaniel Hawt ...more
Bookworm Sean
Feb 22, 2016 Bookworm Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Behold, verily, there is the women of the Scarlet Letter; and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running alongside her”

Let’s talk a little bit about self-fulfilling prophecy. If an entire community, and religious sect, brand a girl’s mother as a sinner, whether justly or unjustly, then surely the girl will take some of this to heart? If the only world she has ever known is one when he only parent is considered ungodly, blasphemous and full of sin, then surely
Rakhi Dalal

Difficult as it is to come to an acceptable idea of existence, it is interesting to study the social evolution of mankind in terms of ethics, values and morals held or dogmas followed. It helps to gain some coherence when coming to terms with the understanding of the rules of the society we make a part of, more importantly, to question certain unreasonable dogmas and beliefs while still considering the sensitive nuances forming the very fabric of society. The contemplation which so verily stimul
Maria Thomarey
Feb 05, 2016 Maria Thomarey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Πριν λίγες εβδομάδες η τηλεόραση έβαλε μια νεανικηχαζοταινια του Hollywood ,κατα την οποία οι μαθητές ενός σχολείου διάβαζαν το " άλικο γράμμα" ως εργασία και μια απο αυτές απο ενα ψέμα έγινε η ηρωίδα του βιβλίου στη σημερινή εποχή .
Θεωρητικά δεν υπάρχουν πια πουριτανοί,
. ή μήπως υπάρχουν;
Θεωρητικά η κοινωνία μας είναι ανοικτή και ανεκτική,ή μήπως οχι ;
Με το "η κοινωνία μας "δεν εννοώ την ελληνική κοινωνία , αλλά την παγκόσμια κοινότητα . Μια παγκόσμια κοινότητα που βουλιάζει στην κινούμενη
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Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer. He is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature for his tales of the nation's colonial history.

Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hathorne changed his name to Hawthorne. Hawthorne anonymously published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828. In 1837, he published Twice-Told T
More about Nathaniel Hawthorne...

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“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” 2443 likes
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” 652 likes
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