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The Scarlet Letter

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3.39  ·  Rating details ·  653,516 ratings  ·  13,684 reviews
Delve into The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne's meditation on human alienation and its effect on the soul in this story set in seventeenth-century Massachusetts and be dazzled by literature.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's dark novel, The Scarlet Letter, a single sinful act ruins the lives of three people. None more so than Hester Prynne, a young, beautiful, and dignified woman, who conceived a ch
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Paperback, Penguin Classics, 279 pages
Published February 27th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published March 16th 1850)
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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  653,516 ratings  ·  13,684 reviews


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Sarah
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Heather Lei
Jun 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
Johntaylor1973
Oct 17, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
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Eddie Watkins
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A PREECHERS SPERM IT HAS UPTIGHT PEOPLE IN IT
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter: A Romance, an 1850 novel, is a work of historical fiction, written by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is considered his "masterwork". Set in 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, during the years 1642 to 1649, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Throughout the book, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, a
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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
"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
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a.novel.femme
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:
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Werner
Feb 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 gu
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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
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Emily May
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Matthew
Current rating based on high school mandatory reading experience.

Comments on this review are making me think I might try it again to see what my adult self thinks.
Melissa Rudder
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 such de ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
description

Maybe 2.5 stars if I were just rating this on how much I actually enjoyed reading it. The 40 page Custom-House introduction was pure pain to plow through, no lie, and there are a lot of slow spots where Hawthorne gets hung up in the details.

But. 5 stars for the richness of Hawthorne's language, the intriguing symbolism, and the way he delves into the human heart.

The Custom-House part (which is just a framing device; seriously, I'll skip it if I ever read this again) tells of a man who finds th
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Kat Kennedy
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.

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And borderline sluttery, buterror]

Andstupidity.
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James
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Book Review
4 of 5 stars to The Scarlet Letter, a classic romantic period tale written in 1850, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Students are often required to read excerpts from this book, if not the whole book, during school. I was one of those students, but then I read it again in college as part of my American Romanticism course during freshmen year. But I also read it a third time prior to a movie being released, as I liked the actors in the movie, but wanted to be able to compare the literary work against it... and it
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Samadrita
3.5/5

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 deni
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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. Beside
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Matt
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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…”
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

When I think of The Scarlet Letter, I think of all the things I hated about high school English. Indeed, I think of all the things I see as wrongheaded in the way we teach literature to kids.

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. Yet, when I entered high school, it did not take long for t
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F
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, abandoned, usa
The writing took a while to get used to. The story itself was good, just wish it was a bit more modern.
Far too much description.
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 move in to a new place a ...more
Lyn
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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☽¸¸.I am¸¸.•*¨ The ¸¸.•*¨*Phoenix¨*•♫♪ ☾
“I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!



One of the most well-known american classics of all time, The Scarlet Letter is a story of sin, shame and punishment; and of the contrast between the redemption of the individual and the damnation of society. The story of Esther Prynne, whose puritan community forc
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Jason
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 “words” or “books” before, The Scarlet
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Jan-Maat
Embarking on this book for the third time I resolved to be of good heart and to above all be strict and particular in my perusal of the framing introduction, and indeed there I noticed some thing most strange, speaking of his puritan and persecuting ancestors Hawthorne writes "At all events, I, the present writer, as their representative, hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes..." (p.10) this struck me as passing peculiar. Why would a strict and persecuting puritan of seventeenth century New Engla ...more
Beverly
A wordy treatise on the aftermath of adultery on the couple who committed the sin/crime in the theocracy that was Massachusetts in the mid-1600s, The Scarlet Letter is interesting and I'm glad I read it, but I didn't care for it overmuch. One reason for that is the vagueness of Hawthorne's theme. Are we to believe in witches, for he includes one in the story, who doesn't hide her allegiance to the devil. Are Hester and her lover and especially little Pearl supposed to be the living embodiment of ...more
Christine
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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Chrissie
Time for a reread! I read this in high school.

I remember liking The Scarlet Letter when I read it in high school. I had a good teacher and the conversation was lively. We all had a lot to say about love and sex and adultery because we all knew very little, but that rarely stops one from having opinions and hopes and ideals. We were fourteen. It was a suitable book for discussion given that the sex content is not graphic. Sex itself is not even mentioned!

Now, rereading it about
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 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
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
Connor
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Video Review:
https://youtu.be/b8GilDA6DSY

I went into this novel knowing very little about it beside the quick summary that was in the Easy A movie years ago. As such, I didn't have high hopes seeing as I don't read many classics and enjoy even fewer.

Luckily, I picked up a physical copy and borrowed the audiobook from the library at the same time. That was such a good decision. I listened to the narration as I read along which helped me power through
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Alex
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rth-lifetime, 2014
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
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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-Tol
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“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” 2503 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.” 805 likes
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