The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne 1850

First of all, don’t buy the Kindle edition of this book – even the 45-cent one – without checking out the free editions on Project Gutenberg.

I read this book in preparation for my review of an upcoming new release called Hester, written by Laurie Lico Albanese and published by St. Martin’s Press. It’s due out in October of this year, so stay tuned.

It seems irrelevant to award stars to such a classic as this, so I’ll share my thoughts. This probably isn’t even a review; it’s just bullet points.

  • Hester Prynne is a single woman in Puritan Massechusetts in the 1640’s. She has a baby out of wedlock, is tried for this sin, and is punished.
  • There is a relatively small cast of characters, and I’m sure a deeper dive would prompt me to analyze the presence of at least one character who seems to serve no purpose in the story, but I really was trying to get through the book as quickly as possible.
  • If YOU need to get through this book as quickly as possible, and you have absolutely no interest in the author’s background or the context in which he wrote the book, you can skim or skip the introductory part of the novel. I did not skip, but I skimmed. Each of us reads for a specific purpose, and in other circumstances I would’ve taken my time, but I got the basics. Mr. Hawthorne was a wordy gentleman, and he took the long way home with every idea.
  • (If you do skip the intro, which is NOT SHORT, I suggest you circle back when you’ve finished the story itself. It’s colorful, and Hawthorne’s references to his contemporaries, especially Transcendentalists like Emerson, Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott (whom he flat-out insults) will prompt you to do a little research into these relationships – especially with Alcott.)
  • I appreciated the skillful depictions of the main characters, and the novel – while verbose – is engaging.
  • Hawthorne presents some profound spiritual and social premises, which isn’t suprising given his intellectual and physical proximity to the Transcendalists.

Here are my favorite quotes from The Scarlet Letter:

“This is already the better life! Why did we not find it sooner?”

And:

“We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”

I recommend the book.

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