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The Scarlet Letter

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3.38  ·  Rating details ·  598,196 Ratings  ·  12,359 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 wo
...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 238 pages
Published February 27th 2003 by Penguin Books (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)
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Jessie
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Community 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
...more
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
Bookdragon Sean
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
...more
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, and gui
...more
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 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
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.

[im
...more
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 ...more
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 wo
...more
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
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 denies him his h
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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. Besides, his wri
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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.
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
...more
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
F
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, dont-like, 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.
Might have been more interesting to study in school.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
4 stars for the richness of Hawthorne's language, the intriguing symbolism, and the way he delves into the human heart. That 40 page Custom-House introduction was still painful to plow through, though.

Review to come.

Initial comments: 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....
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
...more
Chris
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 book e
...more
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 fifty years later,
...more
 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
Elise (TheBookishActress)
I don't really know why I liked this book so much. What on earth.
“No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

This is one of those classics that is famous for basically being universally considered boring. I mean, just look at the 3.3 average rating. And you know what, I do not disagree. Hawthorne repeats every single thing he says eighty times because that's the style of the time. But the strength of the me
...more
Paul
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
...more
Teresa
Jan 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I’d reread The House of the Seven Gables not too long ago, I wasn’t planning on rereading this Hawthorne. But, then I read I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem with its powerful, intriguing scene reimagining Hester, along with an author interview in which Maryse Condé says she rereads The Scarlet Letter quite often. Almost immediately after that, I came across this in Louisa May Alcott’s Moods: As Hester Prynne seemed to see some trace of her own sin in every bosom, by the glare of the Scarlet ...more
Helene Jeppesen
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
Alex
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Ben Loory
Dec 22, 2010 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.)
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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
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“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” 2490 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.” 741 likes
More quotes…