Book Review of The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter
reviewed on + 20 more book reviews
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.