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Scarlet Letter
 
by
Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Scarlet Letter

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  372,363 ratings  ·  7,855 reviews
Hawthorne's masterpiece about Hester Prynne, hapless victim of sin, guilt and hypocrisy in Puritan New England.
Audio Cassette, Abridged, 0 pages
Published April 7th 1993 by Globe Fearon (first published 1850)
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Sarah
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
Johntaylor1973
Oct 17, 2007 Johntaylor1973 rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Heather Lei
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.
Katherine
Yes, yes, I know, everyone hates The Scarlet Letter.

But I've got a special fondness for it. When I was in tenth grade, our English teacher gave us a list of topics to choose from for our Scarlet Letter Essay. Discuss the changing role of women, analyze the symbolism of the forest, etc. This was the first time I'd been asked for literary criticism.

So I was flipping back through the book and writing down examples, cataloging any appearance or reference to anything supernatural, and trying to figur...more
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.

[im...more
Melissa Rudder
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
Yumi
oh god.

hawthorne is that perpetually needy manchild of a writer, you know the one who peers over your shoulder while youre trying to read and keeps pointing out the parts of his own writing that he finds particularly good and/or moving.

"yeah, see? do you see? see how i talked about how the rose is red, and then i talk about how hesters 'a' is red, too? do you see what im trying to do here, with the symbolism?"

and its like that all the way through the book.

*edit 12 september 2008: im tutoring...more
Werner
May 07, 2008 Werner rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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...more
Eddie Watkins
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A PREECHERS SPERM IT HAS UPTIGHT PEOPLE IN IT
Emily May
Aug 18, 2012 Emily May rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads)
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
Ben Loory
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.)
Thomas
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...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 15, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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, drama, saddest
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)...more
Chris
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...more
Jason
Jul 09, 2012 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cami
I am a big fan of the Neverending Book Quiz.
It was through this amusing game that I came to see that I have totally missed including one of my favorite books The Scarlet Letter in my list of the books I've read.

This book of symbols, heartache, growth and the ultimate evil adversary opened my eyes (at 16, mind you) to how amazing and multilayered good literature could be.

I'm grateful for an English teacher that unfolded the depth of this book to her students. It was obvious that she loved this b...more
Cate
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 rather read Twilight.

I was falling asleep while reading this. awful, awful.

I might be...more
Petra
Awesome. I never read Hawthorne before and find his writing style a bit convoluted, with many ideas in one sentence, which slowed down my reading. However, this also improved my appreciation for the language and depth of this story.
Themes: love, hate, revenge, hidden sin, open sin, forgiveness, guilt.
Which gives the Sinner the best chances of redemption: open sin, which is publically observed and punished or hidden sin, which one keeps in one’s soul and suffers alone without any chance of forg...more
Michael
So this is where all of Cormac McCarthy's commas ended up!

Alright, so this was attempt #2 at the Scarlet Letter, and it was successful. This time, I had the brilliant idea of skipping the vast introduction and getting straight to the story. This proved the key to getting through the sucker.

I still had to roll my eyes in the first chapter when Hawthorne offered me (the reader) a rose, which is the particular moment in my first reading that I found so cringingly tacky that I cast away the book a...more
Jee Koh
Of Fatality

To be perfectly honest, I would not have stuck with The Scarlet Letter if it is not reckoned generally to be an American classic. The action is reduced to sketches (typical chapter titles are "The Prison-Door," "The Interior of a Heart," and "Hester and the Physician"), the characters are predictable and unsympathetic, the psychology of hidden guilt is coarsened into symbolism. As for the style, the attendant on the my flight into London hit it on the head, Hawthorne takes fifty words...more
Apatt
“The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.”

“But . . . the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too.”
Any classic novel worth its salt should contain at least several quotabl...more
Faith-Anne
Heartbreaking & moving. I first read this in 11th grade & it did nothing for me. I recently reread it & found myself in love. If you don't enjoy the novel when you're young, try it again in a few years. You'll be surprised how much better the book has gotten & how much you'll grow in the process of rereading it!
Michael
Whenever I go back and reread books that I loved the first time I read it, I get nervous thinking about the chance that I won't like it the second time around. I read The Scarlet Letter for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school, and four years later, quite a lot has changed.

This novel was just as incredible as I remember it to be, though. I realize that this is one of the most despised novels of all time, but I think it has to do with the age at which people have to read it. I th...more
Miriam
When I read this as a teen growing up in liberal 1990s San Francisco, its points about hypocrisy and morality seemed obvious and outdated. Unfortunately it now seems relevant again. I guess that's what makes for a timeless classic.
Leonard
The Scarlet Letter depicts the dynamics of guilt and shame in seventeenth century Massachusetts Bay Colony's Puritan society, but we may find similar forces in communities where established social norms direct members' behavior.

Hester Prynne has to wear the scarlet letter "A," a symbol of shame, for committing adultery. The town fathers seek to enforce the Puritanical code through shame and alienation from the community. But grounded in her identity, Hester stands tall and calm on the scaffold a...more
Carol
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

...more
Jonathan
While being a elegantly written and composed story the tale of a puritan society I believe was better told by Arthur Miller in his "The Crucible". It seems that Nathaniel Hawthorne tries to convey how the all pervasive power of stifling religion kills life, love and all pursuits of pleasure but he does it in an almost confused way. The ending in particular felt rather ambiguous in the context of the rest of the narrative. Was Hawthorne condemning a moral standard that would cast judgement upon s...more
Misfit
Even better when it's not required reading in school. Wow, I can't even put into words how good this book was, and so much better the second time around. The classic tale of Hester Pryne, forced to wear The Scarlet Letter as a sign to all of her adultery, but she refuses to name her lover who is then forced to bear his guilt in silence.

Enough reviewers have recounted the story better than I could. Suffice it to say I loved Hawthorne's prose, it was very dense and lyrical at the same time, and y...more
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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
More about Nathaniel Hawthorne...
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“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.” 407 likes
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” 267 likes
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