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A book review of the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

  • When she dies, she is buried near the grave of Dimmesdale, and they share a simple slate tombstone engraved with an escutcheon described as;
  • This combination of "dreaminess" and realism gave the author space to explore major themes;
  • Do you believe that the sins of a father or mother can be passed along to a child?
  • The members of this community who are ostensibly the most respectable are often the most depraved, while the apparent sinners are often the most virtuous;
  • It showed how prominent the church was in the early settlements like the Massachusetts Bay Colony;
  • The Scarlet Letter, novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne , published in 1850.

Yet, like so many other of these grand literary masterpieces, there never seems to be enough time to read them all as quickly as you wish. After becoming unsure which novel to pick up next, I selected several contenders, from which my boyfriend chose the winning book — The Scarlet Letter finally!

Hester lives within a 17th century, small Puritan village within Boston, Massachusetts, where the actions of the local people are both deeply rooted in, and controlled by, religion. Hawthorne explores how the life of both her and her child are shaped by the prejudiced and unforgiving society which refuses to allow such behaviour to exist, and the ways in which actions can affect the larger community as well as the individual.

The first chapter of this novel does an excellent job of establishing the dynamics of the society which readers find themselves immersed within. Hawthorne explains how the very core of this town is built upon a religion whose doctrines are incredibly harsh, with no respite given for what should be perceived as a lesser kind of evil.

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter

As far as these puritans are concerned, their religious teachings are the ultimate law, and all sins and crimes are an equal evil. Hester, and the grand crime she has committed of both adultery her husband is missing and conceiving an illegitimate child, never stood a single chance of being tried with compassion or fairness.

Hawthorne shows in a glaring and unforgiving light the ways in which the town and its inhabitants are extremely prejudiced. One of the things I find extremely interesting within literature is the study of gender and sex, and this is something that I explored further within my University studies.

I was therefore very eager to explore the ways that Hawthorne presents the dynamics between the emblematic fallen woman, which Hester represents, and the apparently pure, religiously zealous women of the town. These women show no sympathy, no remorse, for this member of their sex, whom they so easily could also have become.

The 100 best novels: No 16 – The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Instead they condemn Hester, lording their superficial piety and superior ways above her. They mark out Hester, publically shaming her for all to see, yet do they not fawn over and idolise the local priest? Do they not appear to wish to tempt him away from his work for their own gratitude? They will not publically associate with Hester, but will easily turn hypocrites when the need suits them.

Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Whilst the story is quickly established and does not leave room for boring passages, I did feel as if I needed more of the story to fully establish the characters. We are not really given any sufficient evidence as to why he is the way he is, or why he becomes a man so consumed by revenge. Whilst the fast paced nature of the book does retain intrigue and interest, overall I did feel that we came into the story halfway through and missed crucial aspects.

I feel that Hawthorn has done this for obvious reasons, to shed light on the hypocrisy of religion, but the very weakness of this man left me frustrated. Hester, a woman whose life choices have been publically paraded, has more strength, more courage, more resolve, than the man who is also a guilty party in her sin.

The Scarlet Letter

Hester is the fallen women, yet she obtains and subverts the masculine role, whilst her former lover shows his effeminate qualities, and still manages to go unpunished.

This is a short book my edition is 200 pagesand I do feel that this length is somewhat reflected in the substance of the novel. Whilst this book does have aspects which I did not completely enjoy, it is clearly a masterful work, which must have been extremely controversial amongst its contemporaries.

It provides a very interesting insight into religion, piety and the harsh Puritan rule without stuffy facts or boring passages.

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This was especially interesting for me, as I have never really learnt about this time period within an academic sphereor in fact much at all about American history. Whilst I may have left this classic feeling slightly underwhelmed, I would still recommend this. Nathaniel Hawthorne is a great writer, and this novel provides sharp snippets of insightful prose.