Book Reviews of The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
PBS Market Price: $5.99 or $2.09+1 credit
ISBN-13: 9780553210095
ISBN-10: 0553210092
Publication Date: 3/1/1981
Pages: 256
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.

3.4 stars, based on 627 ratings
Publisher: Bantam Classics
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

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

reviewed The Scarlet Letter on + 25 more book reviews
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 this book
reviewed The Scarlet Letter on + 6 more book reviews
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: 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
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: 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.
reviewed The Scarlet Letter on + 81 more book reviews
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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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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An 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.
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A classic American novel.
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i really liked this read.very interesting.
reviewed The Scarlet Letter on + 9 more book reviews
What an interesting look into Puritan life. I love the themes in the book, good and evil, dark and light...
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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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Required reading for most high schools.
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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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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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A classic... deals with relationship issues, adultery, and who is to blame.
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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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Has to be read, so might as well read it.
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I loathe this book.