The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > Scarlet Letter Week 4 - Chapter 18 to end

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
What are your impressions of the book now that you have finished reading it?
Were you surprised by any of the events?
Which characters changed the most? Which are most memorable?
For those who had read this book before--What did you notice the second time around? Has your opinion of the book changed?

Have you read any other works of Hawthorne?


message 2: by Anne (new)

Anne | 93 comments I read this book for my second time, and my opinion is unchanged. I found it just as boring as I did as a high school student. Because of my dislike for this book, I have never read any of Hawthorne's other works.


message 3: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 720 comments Finished it last night. Kind of a reverse morality tale--instead of reinforcing societal mores, it asks the reader to look more deeply at where virtue and sin really lie, and comes to a few startling conclusions. Seeking revenge for a legitimate wrong done to you is the path to perdition; doubling down on adultery is the path to redemption. Interesting provocation in terms of not only Puritan society but also the society of Hawthorne's day.

For me, Hawthorne's ruminations on these questions were the best part of the work. The plot was a bit weak for me; a shame he thought Dimmesdale had to be killed off! It's like in novels of the 1950s when the gay character always has to die in the end. Although if he had lived, he would inevitably have disappointed Hester. She seemed already to be recognizing his essential weakness.


message 4: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Hester is one of the strongest characters in the book. Dimmesdale's behaviour was cowardly on the whole.


message 5: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia I'd never read this before and understand that it's regarded as a must-read 'classic' in American schools. I struggled a little to rate it that highly and am interested in whether American readers respond differently.

To me it felt unsubtle and obvious - especially in comparison with other 'fallen woman' stories like Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Tess of the D'Urbevilles and so on.

I can see that Hawthorne is looking back into America's puritan past and presumably drawing comparisons with his present day, but his symbolism, especially, seems very heavy handed.

I know this wasn't where his interest lay but would have loved to know how/where/why the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale developed: as others have said, they don't seem particularly well-matched, and his moral cowardice is breathtaking - it's difficult to imagine him in the role of seducer (presumably).


message 6: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
I can’t remember whether I had read this before, but I enjoyed it for the simple reason I live in New England where Puritan thought processes are still alive and well. I was in my 20s before stores were open for part of the day on Sunday’s - and those hours set to start after church. Liquor stores closed by 8 every evening and were never open on Sunday. Even in my life I see the heritage - I always feel I have to complete the work/tasks before I can do something fun.

I viewed Dimmesdale’s death as a way to show the thinking that things are not always what they seem and rarely is anybody completely bad or completely good. It also brings up religious quandaries as well. If human nature, including sexuality, is given by God, then how does that coincide with the sin of adultery? Is sin a religious construct or a human one or one in the same?

According to the notes in my copy, there was a tombstone which had been labeled with the scarlet A which was seen by Hawthorne. If the people of the time had you keep this label even in death, where is the forgiveness.


message 7: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 720 comments Your view of the book and mine, Roman, seem much the same, especially the bit about heavy-handed symbolism as well as a plot that didn’t seem logical to me.

I’m of Puritan descent as well, so the judgmentalism was very familiar to me, even if it takes different forms today. You ask interesting questions, Deborah—my take is that Hawthorne was taking a humanist tack in implying that much of morality is a human construct but that there are deeper ethics that ought to be universal, such as forgiveness, understanding, and kindness.


message 8: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Thank you to all who have been participating so far.
And remember, if you are still in the process of reading the book, the threads stay open for further comments.


message 9: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia Ah, that's interesting that the influence of puritanism hangs over into the present - makes more sense why this has a place in American cultural history.


message 10: by Rafael (last edited Oct 07, 2018 08:15PM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments I finished it, finally. Life disturbed the reading.

It was a great book. The story, the characters, the setting, all of them had made possible this story be so impressive, but the ending was not expected, to me. I had to look for Increase Mather, I did not know him before this book, actually I did not know that "it" was a "he" when I read this part. I did not see the capitalization and thought that "Increase" was a verb. Forgive me for this digression.

I expected they were been together at the end, this ending was odd. I did not understand completely his death. But it was a great ending too.

Thank you for who voted to this book to be read.


message 11: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Rafael, I am glad you enjoyed the book. I have read it three times, the first time in high school. I remember being confused by the ending at first.
I think Arthur was feeling so much guilt that he damaged his health and weakened his heart so much that any strong emotion could kill him.
I am glad that Pearl was able to help her mother, once Pearl was grown up.


message 12: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I think Arthur was feeling so much guilt that he damaged his health and weakened his heart so much that any strong emotion could kill him.."

Indeed. This explanation could be the right one, but besides that it was a good read. Thank you, Rosemarie.

Rosemarie wrote: "I am glad that Pearl was able to help her mother, once Pearl was grown up. "

She probably became tired of not to help her, isn't? haha


message 13: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
You are welcome, Rafael.


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