Book Reviews of The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
ISBN-13: 9780440376408
ISBN-10: 0440376408
Publication Date: 3/1979
Pages: 320
Edition: Reissue
Rating:
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 5

3.6 stars, based on 5 ratings
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

63 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

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Helpful Score: 5
I never read this book in high school and frankly, I'm glad I didn't. I don't believe an un-married modern teenager could fathom what the characters in this book are experiencing. I had expected to slog through and did not expect to enjoy it, reading it only because my book club chose it. How wrong I was!

The antiquated prose style takes getting used to, but once acclimated to the cadence, one can really enjoy the juicy morsels Hawthorne dishes up. This book is not for the faint of heart! High melodrama with good guys and bad guys and the ever self-posessed Hester Prynne. Deep themes of good and evil and the nature of man. And the writing! People just don't write like this any more...people don't even think like this any more and for that I love this book.

There are passages in this book that are as vivid as if I'd seen them in a painting. There were moments when I wanted to SCREAM at Hester Prynne, so vivid and palpable was her denial of her own rights.

If you are ready to be brought back to another time and place...read this book
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Helpful Score: 3
Sometimes it's tough to slog through the writing of Hawthorne. Not to mention the speech of the Pilgrims. But it's worth it.

I recently re-read this (after 40 years) and oddly enough, the book has drastically improved. As a teenager, in English class, we were scandalized by Hester's um, well, you know. But I now see a richer, more textured story fraught with many tragedies.

Hester Prynne, a single woman in a pilgrim colony, becomes pregnant. She is ostracized, forced to live apart, and is obstinant in her refusal to name the father. She must wear a big, bright red "A" whenever in public (and is ordered to sew these herself). Known to the reader, the father is the preacher.

This is also a love story. Their love, deep and abiding, is filled with gentleness as they secretly meet in the forest. The preacher, a good man, insists on admitting the truth; Hester won't let him. Her daughter is born and life goes on.

Meantime, Hawthorne subtlely points the reader in the direction of the village hypocrites, the liars, the politics, the gossip-mongoring, and the money-grubbers.

There is much more to this novel than a simple scandal. It is a classic because it resonates with its all-too-human readers. Buy it. Read it. Keep it.
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Helpful Score: 2
I read this book when I was in middle school, and now, twenty years later, it holds even more power. It's a delightful story that says a great deal about the fact that what you see is not always what you get...that there is always more to the story than what meets the eye. I loved this book twenty years ago, and I'm sure that in another twenty years, it will still hold the same delight and insight.
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Helpful Score: 2
this book was very hard for me to read. The text felt like a different language, I loved the story and the characters where so real. but if you're going to read this be warned it took me an hour to get through ten pages. Its a slow read and at times i want to put it down but it was so worth reading.
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Helpful Score: 2
Set in an early New England colony, a married woman has an affair with a prominent figure, she gets impregnated. The whole town finds out about this, but she will not tell who the father of her baby is and as a punishment she is condemned to wear a letter A for adultery. This is a story about the woman, her lover and the struggles that she and her lover go through
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Helpful Score: 1
A truely inspiring novel. I love the meaning behind the story. What is morally right to most people may not be right to you. Therefore, you must sometimes go against the majority just to keep your own peace of mind.
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Helpful Score: 1
I read this while in high school and I have to admit I am still not a huge Nathaniel Hawthorne fan. That doesn't mean that I can't still share his books with others when I happen to find them!

It is 1642 in the Puritan town of Boston. Hester Prynne has been found guilty of adultery and has born an illegitimate child. In lieu of being put to death, she is condemned to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress as a reminder of her shameful act.

Hester's husband had been lost at sea years earlier and was presumed dead, but now reappears in time to witness Hester's humiliation on the town scaffold. Upon discovering her deed, the vengeful husband becomes obsessed with finding the identity of the man who dishonored his wife. To do so he assumes a false name, pretends to be a physician and forces Hester keep his new identity secret. Meanwhile Hester's lover, the beloved Reverend Dimmesdale, publicly pressures her to name the child's father, while secretly praying that she will not. Hester defiantly protects his identity and reputation, even while faced with losing her daughter, Pearl.
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Helpful Score: 1
Classic story of penance, guilt, and pride.
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Helpful Score: 1
This was required reading for my sons in high school. By Nathaniel Hawthorne, great read for anyone!!
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Helpful Score: 1
The Scarlet letter is a very interested story that Hawthorne seems to tight together during the 17th century New England days of the Puritans. It shows compassion between Hester and Pearl her daughter as well as Arthur Dimmesdale the minister who had an affair with Hester causing her to have a child out of wedlock which causes tension and strife between the public and Puritan law as Hester wears the scarlet letter A, by being publicly disgraced, but gains strength from the scarlet letter that she discovers true love and devotion to her daughter Pearl. The mystery of the story is finding revealed by Minister Dimmesdale to the public. This is a wonderful book that displays the creative imagination of the romantic heart.
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Helpful Score: 1
I read this book in high school so that would have been.. 4 years ago? Oh boy. This is an excellent book, the story is set in colonial New England and revolves around 3 main characters: Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. The story takes the reader straight into the drama of the damning of Hester Prynne and her heinous act of forbidden passion, Reverend Dimmesdale's secret guilt ridden conscience, and Chillingworth's malevalent ways.

This is an excellent book and once you've read this you'll begin to notice references made to this book from tv, movies, and other medias. A must read and well worth your time.
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Helpful Score: 1
Novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850. It is considered a masterpiece of American literature and a classic moral study. The novel is set in a village in Puritan New England. The main character is Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne an illegitimate child. Hester believes herself a widow, but her husband, Roger Chillingworth, returns to New England very much alive and conceals his identity. He finds his wife forced to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress as punishment for her adultery. Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding the identity of his wife's former lover. When he learns that the father of Hester's child is Arthur Dimmesdale, a saintly young minister who is the leader of those exhorting her to name the child's father, Chillingworth proceeds to torment the guilt-stricken young man. In the end Chillingworth is morally degraded by his monomaniacal pursuit of revenge; Dimmesdale is broken by his own sense of guilt, and he publicly confesses his adultery before dying in Hester's arms. Only Hester can face the future bravely, as she plans to take her daughter Pearl to Europe to begin a new life.
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This is the only book I truly did not mind having to read in school, I think that says a lot!
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The symbolism struck me quite strongly while reading. Nice story.
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Book Description
Like all of Hawthorne's novels, "The Scarlet Letter" has but a slender plot and but few characters with an influence on the development of the story. Its great dramatic force depends entirely on the mental states of the actors and their relations to one another, --relations of conscience, -- relations between wronged and wrongers. Its great burden is the weight of unacknowledged sin as seen in the remorse and cowardice and suffering of the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale. Contrasted with his concealed agony is the constant confession, conveyed by the letter, which is forced upon Hester, and has a double effect, -- a healthful one, working beneficently, and making her helpful and benevolent, tolerant and thoughtful ; and an unhealthful one, which by the great emphasis placed on her transgression, the keeping her forever under its ban and isolating her from her fellows, prepares her to break away from the long repression and lapse again into sin when she plans her flight. Roger Chillingworth is an embodiment of subtle and refined revenge. The most striking situation is perhaps "The Minister's Vigil," in chapter xii. The book, though corresponding in its tone and burden to some of the shorter stories, had a more startling and dramatic character, and a strangeness, which at once took hold of a larger public than any of those had attracted. Though imperfectly comprehended, and even misunderstood in some quarters, it was seen to have a new and unique quality; and Hawthorne's reputation became national.

My Review
This was a re-read for me as I read this when I was in high school. I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Although a little outdated for today's teenagers, the book is a good look at what it was like living in the 1600's and having to adhere to their moral codes. It is a deeply emotional book with lots of symbolism and does show that bad decisions do have consequences. I do highly recommend the book as it is one story that is very hard to forget.
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Timeless.
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Hester is amazing. I love that this is a feminist novel written by a man at a time before feminism really existed. Ultimately, Hester is able to turn her scarlet letter into a source of strength.
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A tale of adultery, guilt, and social repression in Puritan New England.
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A classic story, a good theme though very slow at times.
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One of my favorite books of all time. I posted it due to the small size of the book- it fits in a pocket book and is the size of a wallet so you can read anywhere...
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Personally, I thought Hawthorne's stories in "Twice Told Tales" were much better than this. The characters's suffering seemed to overt and not at all subtle.
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A great classic.
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The classic story of Hester Prynne's punishment for adultery by her Puritan judges. Set in New England of the seventeenth century.
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Reader's Digest edition with beautiful binding, ribbon placemarker, beautiful patterned endpapers.
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Finished reading this with my daughter as part of a school assignment. All I can say is that I'm glad I didn't have to read this in high school! The book was written in 1850, around the same time as Moby Dick (another classic I have put off reading). I guess Scarlet Letter does have a message -- be true to yourself and strive to be individualistic. And it does delve into the morals (or lack thereof)in Puritanical Society, but trudging through the tortuous journey was really a struggle for both me and my daughter. The language used in the book may well have been common language in 1850, but trying to decipher it in 2012 was a chore to say the least. Seems like Hawthorne would go on for paragraphs trying to describe a scene or say something meaningful but would usually leave us saying, "huh?" I know this is a classic but I would only recommend it slightly.
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Hated every minute of it
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The summary of the book shown at the top of this page is about another book. Puritans and adultery are the topics of this book, and the primary character is a woman, not a 15 year old boy!
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A Classic!!!
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From the jacket:
The Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthornes most famous and highly praised novel. Set in the severe Puritan community of 17th century Boston, it is a deeply moving novel, rich in psychological insight and human truths. Its main character, Hester Prynne, is Hawthorne's greatest creation. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, she draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction.
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Popular Classics Library hardcover editon of this great classic by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Unabridged "Bookcassette Edition" 3 cassettes - 8 hours run time.

Do you remember this book from High School English? I do! With the assistance of my then girlfriend's interpretation, I managed a B+ for my "Book Report".

The audio version is much more palatable, no longer are you forced to digest 15 letter words, or page long paragraphs.

Let's face reality - at sometime or another, your children will be faced with this book - give it a listen to better prepare yourself for the floodtide of questions to come. I wish I had had this when my own son was given this assignment in HIS English Class - but the, he got an A. Go figure.
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Very nice read, in high school
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The Scarlet Letter is the story of three New England settlers at odds with the puritan society in which they live. Roger Chillingworth, an aging scholar, arrives in New England after two years' separation from his wife Hester to find her on trial for adultery. For refusing to reveal her lover's identity, she is condemned to wear a letter 'A' sewn onto her clothes. Roger resolves to discover and destroy the man who has stolen his honor.

For the next seven years the participants in this bizarre love triangle privately suffer the consequences of betrayal, cowardice, and humiliation. Slowly but surely, the need for redemption grows in each as the story hastens toward its dramatic close. The Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece.

The handsome volumes in The Collectors Library present great works of world literature in a handy hardback format. Printed on high-quality paper and bound in real cloth, each complete and unabridged volume has a specially commissioned afterword, brief biography of the author and a further-reading list. This easily accessible series offers readers the perfect opportunity to discover, or rediscover, some of the world's most endearing literary works.
reviewed The Scarlet Letter on + 138 more book reviews
I recently listened to this as an unabridged audio book hoping that that would make this classic easier to stomache. It Didn't.

This author's prose is so complex and convoluted that having to listen to it means REALLY having to listen. I'm now convinced that the print version would have been more appropriate. Not only is it easier in print to mark one's place and set the work aside but it would be satisfying to throw this tome against the wall a time or two.

The story has some redeeming aspects (it's probably one of America's earliest psychological thrillers) but the language is so dated (Thitherto?) that it's a chore to get through this and the poor reader of this audio version did an OK job but would ocassionally lose the meaning of the sub sub sub clauses.

Any high school or middle school English teacher that still assigns this as required should be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity. It would drive any reluctant reader to not only swear off reading altogether but might drive some to the Oedipal lengths of gouging one's eyes out with broaches.

As I listened to this and gazed at one of the Harry Potter novels on my shelf it occured to me... Why give Harry Potter a blood letting quill... just have him transcribe this swill!"

Though the setting is antique this was released only one year before Moby Dick and yet it reads as awkwardly as if it were written a century or two before.

I've heard it said that one of the main reasons that Franklin Pierce got elected President was that he was good buddies with Hawthorne and Hawthorne actually wrote his biography. If was anything like the prose here, one wonders "how could that have helped?"

Finally Hawthorne provides the best words to critique his work when he describes the book that sent poor Dimsdale to dreamland in one of the books crucial scenes... "A Work of vast ability in the somniferous school of literature."

Pretty much wrote his own review there...
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Might be on your college or high school reading list! It was on mine, so I was "forced" to read it, but enjoyed it none-the-less.
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A must-read for those interested in New England of the past.
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Classic American fiction based in 17th century Puritan community in New England. This edition has a foreward by Leo Marx, signet classic binding. First read this in high school, very crisp and readable compared to other "classics", language is fairly modern. Try this again if you haven't read it recently!
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Published by Dell Paperbacks, 1950.
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A wonderful classic by Nathaniel Hawthorne! Great for students.
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A classic.
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A classic.
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I read this in high school. It is a great character and color meaning study.
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Well written account of life at the time, although occasionally long-winded. Good character development.
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A classic American story - absolutely great, even if it is a bit dry at points.
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It's been ages since I read this, but it's definitely a classic. This story is a wonderful view into a time when, much like today, religion was a fierce weapon. Nathaniel Hawthorne was clearly a master of not only storytelling, but the basic human psychology, and this tale is among his finest.
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This was a great book, a little drama and a bit scarry. The birth of Pearl is what makes this the great book that it is. The end was also a little surprising-and ironic.
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An Amazon.com review:
The story itself deals with sin and adultery, a subject that isn't very popular right now. Hawthorne does an excellent job of telling us about this, but he leaves the reader with many questions floating around in his mind at the conclusion. At the end of the story you're not 100% sure if Hawthorne was condemning the Puritan society, or if he was commending it. He leaves that for the reader to figure out, which is a thing authors seldom do. That's a major reason I believe this work is so unique and timeless.

The story involves a women named Hester Prynne, living in the New World in the late 17th century. She has committed adultery with someone unknown, and, since the Puritan society considered the Bible to be their ultimate source of law, the punishment was quite severe for such an act. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet "A" (for adultery) on her attire at all times, as a sign to everyone that she has sinned deeply. And so she must carry out the rest of her life this way. That's the major gist of the plot, although there's much more. I won't give it anyway, though, you'll have to read the book to find out.
reviewed The Scarlet Letter on + 3 more book reviews
I had to read this for English II. It was a decent book. It was dense and took a while to read and comprehend, but overall, it was good. I enjoyed it, although I think further discussion of the themes and indepth analyzation would have helped me to further appreciate this American classic.
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Required reading for most high schools.
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Excellent condition, A classic
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A classic... deals with relationship issues, adultery, and who is to blame.
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What an interesting look into Puritan life. I love the themes in the book, good and evil, dark and light...
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This book is about a dark tale of love,crime, and revenge. This is a good story, paobably most of the world has already read it. For those who did not try reading it you might like it.
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I'd never read this classic and ordered the unabridged audio book in hopes that this would make it less painful to fill one of the holes in my classical education.

It Didn't.

This author's prose is so complex and convoluted that having to listen to it means REALLY having to listen. I'm now convinced that the print version would have been more appropriate. Not only is it easier in print to mark one's place and set the work aside but it would be satisfying to throw this tome against the wall a time or two.

The story has some redeeming aspects (it's probably one of America's earliest psychological thrillers) but the language is so dated (Thitherto?) that it's a chore to get through this and the poor reader of this audio version does an OK job but does ocassionally lose the meaning of the sub sub sub clauses.

Any high school or middle school English teacher that still assigns this as required should be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity. It would drive any reluctant reader to not only swear off reading altogether but might drive some to the Oedipal lengths of gouging one's eyes out with broaches.

As I listened to this and gazed at one of the Harry Potter novels on my shelf it occured to me... Why give Harry Potter a blood letting quill... just have him transcribe this swill!"

And a further trial in the audio version... all the world knows the heroine herein as Hester Prynne (rhymes with SIN.) However, the reader of this audiobook version insists on calling her Hester Prynne (rhymes with FINE.)

Though the setting is antique this was released only one year before Moby Dick and yet it reads as awkwardly as if it were written a century before.

I've heard it said that one of the main reasons that Franklin Pierce got elected President was that he was good buddies with Hawthorne and Hawthorne actually wrote his biography. If was anything like the prose here, one wonders "how could that have helped?"

Finally Hawthorne provides the best words to critique his work when he describes the book that sent poor Dimsdale to dreamland in one of the books crucial scenes... "A Work of vast ability in the somniferous school of literature."

Pretty much wrote his own review there...
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i really liked this read.very interesting.
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A classic American novel.
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Scandal in a small town, can be read like a trashy novel or at a deeper level with loads of symbolism.
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A Classic
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Great reading
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Has to be read, so might as well read it.
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This was even better an I expected it to be. I read it over a year ago, and it was not disappointing. I felt as if I understood this novel as if it were close to home.
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To be honest...I have never read this book, but it is a classic.
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I loathe this book.