The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Published by MobileReference (mobi).

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The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850, is an American novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and is generally considered to be his magnum opus. Set in Puritan Boston in the seventeenth century, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery, refuses to name the father, and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne explores the issues of grace, legalism, sin, and guilt.
- Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


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Customer Reviews:

  • A Call to Integrity, Honesty
    Pretensions of public morality is what Hawthorne aims at--his story shows the hypocrisy of Puritan leaders imposing a legalistic, rigid morality on the community, and lifelong shame on one woman's indiscretion, to the extent that their judgmental rigidness can almost be deemed a sin in its own right. You can see the ending coming a mile away, and it's a bit too melodramatic for my taste. Even so, the real story is not just the actions of the characters but rather how guilt works itself out--Hawthorne's storytelling keeps you absorbed right to the end such that you don't want to put the book down. Very interesting food for thought on the relationship of public and private morality. Shows that refusal to forgive can be more of an evil than "sin" as society defines it....more info
  • ugh
    Why do books such as this keep being required reading in high schools? Havent there been any authors in more recent time that would provide students more relevancy? Obviously this appeals to those who are truly literature lovers--and that's fantastic. But for most kids, give them something they'll enjoy reading and maybe they'll learn to love literature more. Books like this just antagonize and demoralize those who are not naturally literature lovers....more info
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - EBOOK
    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a great American novel!...more info
  • Intriguing and Creative
    The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, takes place in the 1600s in Boston, which was a Puritan community at that time. The Puritans had extremely strict moral codes, and adultery, a subject matter in this novel, was deemed by the Puritans in the same way that felonies today are regarded. The novel's plot is directed by the Puritans' reactions to such behavior.

    Nearly all classic novels get praised for character "development." However, the Scarlet Letter is the only novel I have read so far that, in my opinion, truly demonstrates development of characters. All other novels I have read have "exploration" of characters, but not actual development. Development of characters involves portraying the changes in a person's personality as a result of conflict.

    In my opinion, the most impressive aspect of the Scarlet Letter is the ingenious connection between the novel's message and character development. In the Scarlet Letter, a single incident of adultery has unforeseen consequences that affect four people. How each character responds to the situation determines his or her physical and mental outcome in the story. The core message of the novel is that hiding one's sins causes more anguish than revealing one's sins.

    The character development is superb, but the novel does not seem to use the developed characters to influence the plot. The subject of adultery was a creative element to develop characters, but I wish that the author had introduced a different conflict toward the end of the novel to show how the 3D characters would have reacted to the change in subject matter. I personally think that varying the subject matter and conflict would have made the message even more convincing; however, the novel is written with a confident call to action, which is the MOST important aspect of any work of fiction.

    We live in a world in which immorality is everywhere, so a novel in which nothing inappropriate happens would be a pointless novel. Novels must address societies' immorality without sacrificing decency. Therefore, I commend The Scarlet Letter for referencing sexually immoral subject matter, without being a "sexual" book. This represents brilliance and should be observed by all writers of fiction.

    Many readers have complained that The Scarlet Letter is irrelevant to today's society. To some extent, I agree. However, the greatest novels written today will be irrelevant to society two hundred years into the future. Therefore, there is no justification for criticizing writers simply because their masterpieces will someday seem irrelevant. As time progresses, scenery changes, climates change, countries split up or join together, governments change, laws change, etiquette changes, etc. However, the elements of human personalities do not change with time. It is for this reason that I constantly emphasize the importance of characters. The Scarlet Letter's characters' personalities are thoroughly developed and distinctive, so they exist throughout today's world, as well as tomorrow's world.
    ...more info
  • Way too boring for me
    My son was forced to read this book for his high school english class. I consider this cruel and unusual punishment. I believe there are some consitutional laws that prevent schools from giving kids this big slop of boring inside about 300 pages. Its the reason why kids these days hate reading, because before they have time to read anything exciting and interesting they have to read stuff like the Scarlet Letter. The only reason Nathaniel Hawthorne is a classic is because he wrote fancy and he is dead. In fact Hawthorne never wrote an interesting word in his life. Its like he went out of his way to bore people to death. Now I know there wasn't much around to inspire good stories back than but I didn't think it was this bad. He drags on a plot that shouldn't of lasted more than 30 pages into a whole freakin novel! Pure insanity that kids are forced to read terrible bore fests like Hawthorne....more info
  • Great Book!!
    This is required reading for my 16 yr old arrived quickly & in great shape! Very Pleased!...more info
  • fascinating
    A one sentence summary of this book would go like this: set in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts during the 17th century, The Scarlet Letter is about a woman named Hester Prynne, who is condemned to wear the letter "A" for the rest of her life after committing the sin of adultery. Now, this may not sound terribly interesting, but there is more to good literature than just plot, and The Scarlet Letter is one of these excellent works. Nathaniel Hawthorne's distinctive dark, flowing descriptions give this book a kind of eerie appeal and turns the plot into a fascinating story.
    All of the main characters are extremely well developed. Because Hawthorne tends to keep everything shrouded in mystery, while still foreshadowing certain events, I could not stop reading. I just had to satisfy my curiosity, and one page led to another and another.
    Hawthorne's finest character in this novel was old Roger Chillingworth, the antagonist whose name suits him perfectly. When Chillingworth arrives in Boston to find that his wife, Hester, has given birth to a daughter he could not have fathered, Chillingworth vows to discover who the man is. As he grows more and more obsessed with revenge, his appearance changes too, until he is better described not as a man, but as a devil-like creature that lives only for revenge. While many authors cannot make a character seem truly frightening without including a list of horrific crimes that the character is responsible for (in which case the reader is probably more shocked by the gore than by the character), Hawthorne manages to make Chillingworth unsettlingly evil by simply describing his appearance, no blood, torture devices, or dialogue required. He writes so skillfully that nothing else is needed.
    And Chillingworth is only one example of Hawthorne's talent. The Scarlet Letter is definitely a book worth reading.
    ...more info
  • A Spiritual Masterpiece
    Through Hawthorne's dynamic characters, he portrays the harsh Puritan society of the 18th century. This story is more than a social commentary though. The struggle of good and evil within the human soul, the concept of right and wrong, love and hate are all addressed as Hawthorne delves into the darkest recesses of the human soul. This is a classic....more info
  • Dark, meaningful, and dare I say sexy?
    I think this is one of my favorites from high school English or whenever I read the thing, and I agree that it is a classic full of excellent imagery, strong characters, and of course all that symbolism we all love to hate.

    But outside the annoying intellectual stuff, this is just a great story that fills that spot craving good drama. Call it a soap-opera problem--only this keeps the craziness in check and lets the characters, all of them, guide their own stories.

    The stories revolves around a few central people in a small Puritan town. And you know those Puritans. Hester is the town outcast, socially punished for having an affair whilst she was married. Along side her are her daughter, her husband, and the man she really loved all along.

    These people are real, as much as you like or despise them. The story is real, and even though we haven't all been accused by a town of Puritans for adultry we can all testify to that same judgement and goodness that remains in this world.
    ...more info
  • Classic
    I agree with just about everything that has been said about this book. It is a classic and I love it. I'm going into 10th grade and I read it to get ahead in school. I found that once I started I could not set this book down....more info
  • The first masterpiece of American literature
    "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," might well be Nathaniel Hawthorne's theme in The Scarlet Letter. Certainly, by all community standards Hester Prynne's adultery is a sin. Worse yet Arthur Dimmesdale has triply sinned since he has had carnal knowledge of a member of his flock, and through a deep and abiding cowardice has failed to acknowledge his sin; and what is even worse yet, he allows Hester to bear the weight of public condemnation alone.

    However the worse sin of all belongs to Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband who is not dead at all, but returned in disguise as a physician who has learned the efficacy of various medicinal concoctions from the Indians during his captivity. He pretends to befriend Dimmesdale in order to extract his long and torturous revenge. But it is Chillingworth's character itself more than anything that marks him as the worse of the sinners. He lives only for revenge and to give pain and suffering. He cares nothing for his wife and her child. He cares nothing for anyone, not even himself. He lives only to avenge.

    Dimmesdale's sin is that of a weak character. In a sense Dimmesdale is Everyman, the non-heroic. We see the contrast between the proud bravery of Hester and the all too human weakness of Dimmesdale who cannot bring himself to confess his sin, but looks to her strength to do it for him. We see this in the first scaffold scene as he pleads along with Chillingworth for Hester to reveal the father's identity. "Reveal it yourself!" we want to say.

    While some have seen Chillingworth as the devil incarnate--and indeed I suspect that was Hawthorne's intent--it might be closer to the truth to see him as the vengeful God of the Old Testament with his lust to mysterious power and his desire to see the sinful suffer. At any rate, Hawthorne's masterpiece--and it is a masterpiece, one of the pillars of American literature, to be ranked with such great works as Melville's Moby-Dick and Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--is about sin and the effect of sin; and this is only right since the central tenet of Christianity itself is sin and the forgiveness of sin.

    By employing and investigating deeply three types of sin--Hester's from love and even something close to innocence; Dimmesdale's from lust, pride, neglect and cowardice; and Chillingworth's from hate--Hawthorne came up with a most felicitous device for examining the human soul.

    The Scarlet Letter is regularly taught at the high school level, but surely this is a mistake. The novel is difficult and challenging even for honors students. The architectured sentences, with their points and counterpoints, their parallel construction, their old school rhetorical cadences are strange and even wondrous to the modern eye. It is a good practice for the teacher and for the student to read aloud Hawthorne's prose so as to grow accustomed to his words the way one must for Shakespeare. If this is done and the edifice of Christianity and especially the fatalism of the Puritan mind brought to bear, then with leisurely pace and a steady concentration, the terrible beauty of Hawthorne's novel might be made immediate.

    Although the story itself is compelling, and the prose rich and poetic, the real strength of this great novel is in its characters. How true to life are all of them including even little Pearl who is defiant and willful in her beauty and her promise, so like a heroine-to-be of a modern novel. And how despicable and loathsome is this bent old man who embodies the very soul of the despised! And how attractive on a superficial level is this pretty young pastor whose actions are not the equal of his looks. And how strong and faithful and heroic is Hester who invites both envy and admiration, something like a flawed goddess of yore.

    What stuck me when I first read this, and remains with me today, is that it is those who presume to punish sin who are the real sinners. Chillingworth's life is one devoid of human feeling, devoid of any real joy as he lies in the stone cold bed of hatred and revenge. And to a lesser extent so it is with Dimmesdale who cannot forgive himself, who secretly flagellates himself so that his life becomes a hell on earth. On the other hand there is Hester who finds forgiveness and love with good works and in the joy of her beautiful and precious Pearl and in her unstinting love for Dimmesdale and her hope and faith that a better life will come.

    This is a deeply Christian novel although it is usually seen as a criticism of Christianity in the sense that the Christian community condemns the least of the sinners while the hypocrisy of its clergy is made manifest. Looking deeper we see that it is forgiveness of sin and the redemption that comes from good works that is exemplified. Hester knows the joy of life because she is a loving and giving person; and on another level she is forgiven because we the reader forgive her. How could we not? And most of the Puritan flock also forgave her since it came to be said that the scarlet "A" she wore upon her person stood not for "Adultery" but for "Able."

    It is also good to realize that when Hawthorne published the novel in 1850 the scene of the story was nearly two hundred years removed. Thus Hawthorne looked back at Puritan America from the standpoint of a more secular society greatly influenced by Jeffersonian deism and the transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau. In some respects, Hawthorne's brilliant treatment of the ageless theme of sin, guilt and redemption was a serendipitous, even unconscious, artifact of his literary skill. No artist composes a masterpiece without some deep talent at work independent of his conscious efforts....more info
    In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne tells a story of the results of sin. Set in Seventeenth Century Massachusetts, it is a tale of the life of Hester Prynne, who has been convicted of adultery. She is sentenced to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her chest, as a badge of dishonor. We follow her decisions to keep her lover secret, and how this bears down on her over time. We watch as her child (Pearl) resultant of the act grows into a wild daughter, unrestrained by her mother (who feels guilt from her sin, and who also questions the established morals of the society she lives in). All the while, her aged, learned husband comes closer and closer to discovering the identity of the man who took part in the adultery.
    Hawthorne describes all this with unique detail. Nearly every object -- whether it be a rose at a prison door, or a river in the woods -- contributes some symbolism to the plot. The language of the narrative is very fitting, and the dialogue is delightfully written in the correct form of the day. With small supporting details woven in (such as the few brief but important appearances of a witch named Mistress Hibbins) and the deep symbolism, The Scarlet Letter has an almost supernatural tone, while it still remains a perfectly realistic novel.
    Many consider The Scarlet Letter to be Nathaniel Hawthorne's crowning achievement. It has certainly stood the test of time, being a classic that is now over 150 years old, and still very well known. For anyone who enjoys this style of literature, this book is one to read.

    Ryan Robledo
    Author of the Aelnathan:...more info
  • Hester's Story

    Hester Prynne is a young woman who has committed adultery. As punishment for what her Puritan religion considers being a crime, Hester is branded with the letter `A'. Hester must wear the letter, which has been beautifully embroidered in scarlet onto her gown, to remind her of the burdens she carries because of her sin; a second husband, Mr. Dimmesdale, a daughter, Pearl, and a town full of enemies who consider her irrational. The commotion that Hester's affair caused was not pleasant. Many shunned and abandoned poor Hester. She was left to fend for herself and newborn daughter with no help from her husband or anyone else. Even Mr. Dimmesdale, the local Puritan church leader who was involved in Hester's affair, turns against her by charging her of the crime! Dimmesdale tries his hardest to cover up his mistake but Hester endures more sorrow and feels even more damaged than him. Although Hester Prynne's decision to betray her husband and her religion may not have been a good one, Hawthorne proves that she is not the only one who deserves to be punished. He criticizes the Puritan ways and shows that sometimes punishment isn't necessary; when the person being punished has learned a lesson.
    Pearl is in a way punished as well, for something she does not know about. Although the young girl grows up happy and almost carefree, she really isn't. Her mother learns to love her even though she was born by a sin and eventually she meets her father who loves her as well.
    Even after Hester has showed her town she can raise a child "the Puritan way" without any trouble, it takes them awhile to realize that Hester really shouldn't have had to suffer so much pain and sorrow for something that was not any different from things they had done. Hawthorne's novel is stunningly well written and teaches a valuable lesson to the reader; be true to everyone, even yourself. "The Scarlet Letter" is a timely classic that should be remembered always and forever. The last sentence of Nathaniel Hawthorne's amazing novel sums up the entire book perfectly: "On a field sable, the letter `A' gules." This is a great book for anyone who loves suspense, drama, love, and authors who write with a passion that allows the reader to visualize what's happening and feel the heartache that Hester felt.
    ...more info
  • Wonderful classic
    I don't understand why this novel has such a low customer rating, except that I can see how many would find the subject matter and elevated writing style extremely difficult and dislikable. The Scarlet Letter is not to be (nor is it possible to be) read lightly; it is actually, in the way of many 19th-century classic novels, quite painful to read. I loved it, and I still trudged through it.

    The subject matter, infinitely grim and distasteful, is not enjoyable in any way. It centers on the nature of morality, sin, corruption, hypocrisy especially concerning morality, and all that hackneyed bag of themes. You probably already know the general plot of the novel, so I need not reiterate it. Ironically, while criticizing the hypocrisy and sternness of the Puritans, Hawthorne seems very puritannical himself, and displays those same characteristics, including a kind of absurd self-righteousness and a pompous, austere, rigid, very Christian sense of morality. I got endless irony out of this; it seemed as though he, as the narrator, was condemning the Puritans for their harsh, hypocritical actions while endorsing Puritan principles and expressing views just as severe and ridiculously religious, if not more so, than theirs. I have to warn you that it's pretty disgusting the way he is wholly obsessed with the ideas of sin and guilt. Honestly, I think all he wrote about in his lifetime were Puritans, morality, sin and how we are all horrible sinners, etc. I imagine he could have been a fire-and-brimstone-preaching evangelist if he hadn't chosen the path of literary genius instead. And yes, despite all this, he is still a literary genius.

    What makes this such a wonderful piece of classic literature, and one of my favorites, is how beautiful, eloquent, gorgeous, and sophisticated the language is. Rarely have I seen such an astounding mastery of the English language and literary devices, with perfect fluency and coherence, depth, insight, passion, intensity, and power of expression. Of course, I'm sure the style of prose is not for everyone; but I find it remarkable, magnificent, admirable. I loved the rampant symbolism, the ingenuity of little metaphors found everywhere. I loved the character Pearl, who is so strange and otherwordly and complex. Dimmesdale is, well, so very pathetic; he is the epitome of the once-righteous-now-fallen, guilt-torn, utterly miserable, wretched, squirming, feeble, tortured soul, and his abject, wallowing despair adds to the overall gloomy and tormenting atmosphere of the novel.

    I know I ranted quite a bit in this review, but honestly, it's a superb work and triumph of English-language literature, and you should at least be able to appreciate it to some degree, in some aspects, and concede its exceptional use of language. I have a feeling that a lot of the reviewers expressing negative opinions are malcontent high school students grumbling about a "stupid, boring book" assigned to them for class. I myself had to read it for my junior-year English class, but I am very glad I was forced to do so.

    For those whining about how "verbose" it is - please get over your own short attention span or lack of taste or whatever it is that impedes you from recognizing and appreciating good literature. An example of verbosity is: "I waded along the flooded bank of the river that had overflowed its banks and along which I now waded in flood water," not a sentence of graceful structure and expressiveness like (randomly selecting): "Continually, indeed, as it stole onward, the streamlet kept up a babble, kind, quiet, soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancy without playfulness, and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintances and events of sombre hue." ...more info
  • Worse book I ever had to read
    I pity the fool who has to read this book for school. It truly is a horrible book. Even my teacher, who is passionate about nearly everything he teaches, admits that he hates the book....more info