The Scarlet Letter
Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves.
Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.
“There are so many things I could say about this book, but should I reach the heights of elegance achieved only by Shakespeare, Hawthorne himself, or Faulkner, I could not overcome the horrible, terrible misconceptions most people have formed after having this beautiful novel foisted upon them in high school. Instead, I’ll share a few observations and some tips for reading.
First, this is a complicated story. It’s not about evil Puritans and hero Hester, although you will read this point of view in the cheat note summaries on the internet. It’s not about feminism, really, nor is it about religion in any technical sense. The only comparison that really fits is that of love story, or love triangle, or maybe love square. (I told you it is complicated.) In all of literature, there are very few writers who have penned characters so incredibly real and well-rounded. When you finish the novel, you KNOW these people. Certainly there is some minor societal commentary, but the real story here is about these people.
Now, I’m assuming that many people looking at this page have been told they must read this book for high school English. As a former teacher of said subject, I have some pointers.
(1) Make sure you read the book for yourself. Chances are (in our current educational system) your teacher is going to have a flat interpretation of this book, likely gleaned from some ready-made teaching packet. (If you have another kind of teacher, consider yourself lucky.) You can have some very interesting class discussions if you actually read the material and challenge some of the majority opinions about the novel. Be a rebel. Have some fun in English.” – Amazon Review