The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The first time I read Hawthorne’s novel was in ninth grade. It wasn’t assigned reading for my class but rather I was intrigued by another student’s project on the book hanging in my English teacher’s classroom. Hawthorne’s novel was never assigned as required reading and I doubt it will be assigned in any of my classes this or subsequent semesters.

The language of this novel makes it difficult to read and I do remember being frustrated with its complexities in high school. This time, though, I listened along to the novel while reading it and found my comprehension was greatly increased. Some of the most basic aspects of the novel were either lost on me or lost in time. I forgot how precocious little Pearl is and I even commented on GoodReads that I wanted to keep her. At 203 pages, the story seems to be rather basic but it manages to tackle complex issues in a rewarding way.

Is it better to openly own your sin or try to hide it away forever?  Hester is forced to publically own her shame through the scarlet letter and she is therefore punished by her peers. However, her self-loathing is nothing to that in comparison to Arthur Dimmesdale, whose psychological anguish is intense and torturous since he does not publically acknowledge his adulterous behavior.

Rereading this novel while also reading Anna Karenina has been an interesting experience mostly because I’ve noticed several parallels between the two. Both have sex with men that aren’t their husbands and subsequently give birth to daughters. Both are set up for public ridicule and shame. Hester is then forced to wear a scarlet letter on her chest; I have yet to reach the point where Anna experiences consequences.

Hawthorne’s novel is one of my favorite classics. So much so that I hesitate to pick up any more of his stories for fear my opinion about him, and therefore this novel, will change. Anyways, if you have yet to read The Scarlet Letter, I highly recommend you go out and pick up a copy.

Others’ Thoughts:

Books Mentioned:

  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Ann Arbor, MI: Borders Classics, 2004. Originally published 1850. Print. 203 pgs. ISBN: 158726093X. Source: Purchased.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated from Russian by Constance Garnett. Salt Lake City, UT: Project Gutenberg, 2010. Originally published 1877. eBook. 1361 pgs. ISBN: XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Source: Free download.

Reading Buddies:

Hosted by Erin of Erin Reads, Reading Buddies was born out of Erin’s 2011 reading goal of tackling books on her TBR list. She put out a call to find out if anyone was interested in reading some of the same books along with her. Since she and I shared several books between our two lists, I jumped at the chance to cross books of my TBR list and read along with her. The Scarlet Letter is the selection for December.

Book Cover © Borders Classics. Retrieved: December 17, 2011.
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5 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  1. Oh! I think you should experience Hawthorne’s short stories, Christina. His writing is just wonderful–though like you I had a tough time with the language. I don’t have the energy to read classics right now but I like the idea of listening to them. Might have to look into that–especially the books I’ve read and already am familiar with the story.

    PS–love that you read this just because you saw someone’s project and it interested you.

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    1. I flew through this one largely because I knew the story and was able to listening to it while doing tasks that require more concentration. Audiobooks increased my comprehension of the classics but I have to do tasks that require less concentration (i.e. working out, working on my needlepoint) in order to understand them. If I try to do anything on the computer, I immediately lose focus.

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