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Cliffs Notes: Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
Cliffs Notes Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Author:Nathaniel Hawthorne, Cliff Notes Editors Hawthorne began The Scarlet Letter in September, 1849, and finished it, amazingly, in February, 1850. Its publication made his literary reputation and temporarily eased some of his financial burdens. This novel was the culmination of Hawthorne's own reading, study, and experimentation with themes about the subjects of Puritans, sin, guilt, a... more »nd the human conflict between emotions and intellect. Since its first publishing in March of 1850, The Scarlet Letter has never been out of print. Even today, Hawthorne's romance is one of the best-selling books on the market. Perhaps The Scarlet Letter is so popular, generation after generation, because its beauty lies in the layers of meaning and the uncertainties and ambiguities of the symbols and characters. Each generation can interpret it and see relevance in its subtle meanings and appreciate the genius lying behind what many critics call "the perfect book."
An interest in the past was not new to Hawthorne. As a boy, he had read novelists, such as James Fenimore Cooper and Sir Walter Scott, who wrote historical romances. Although the past appeared an appropriate subject for romance, Hawthorne wanted to go beyond the shallow characters of his predecessors' books and create what he called a "psychological romance"--one that would contain all the conventional techniques of romance but add deep, probing portraits of human beings in conflict with themselves.« less