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The Scarlet Letter (1850)

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
29,23631169 (3.39)2 / 916
Set in the harsh Puritan environment of 17th century Boston, The scarlet letter describes the plight of Hester Prynne, an independent-minded woman who stands alone against society. Having given birth to a child after an illicit affair, she refuses to name the father and is forced to wear the letter "A" for adulteress embroidered on her dress.… (more)
  1. 134
    The Crucible by Arthur Miller (SandSing7, Morteana)
  2. 114
    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (chrisharpe)
  3. 20
    Kamouraska by Anne Hébert (charlie68)
  4. 31
    Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (LCBrooks)
    LCBrooks: Allows for interesting comparisons on the subject of double marriage.
  5. 10
    The Scarlet Letter [1995 film] by Roland Joffé (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Fascinating interpretation. Very free and very different. Really an independent work of art. If not superior to the novel, certainly not inferior to it either. Good script, excellent cast, beautiful music.
  6. 21
    Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker (alaskayo)
    alaskayo: Contains a lot of parallels between the two heroines. Acker's '77 novel also contains a scathing deconstruction of Hawthorne's the Scarlet Letter somewhere down the line. If you haven't heard of her, take note. She's worth the attention.
  7. 21
    Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Sex and guilt in Calvinist cultures.
  8. 11
    Elsie Venner A Romance of Destiny by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Midnightdreary)
    Midnightdreary: Similar exploration of the question of sin, inherited or otherwise.
  9. 22
    The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (chrisharpe, kxlly)
  10. 12
    Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: Hester Prynne has a spunkiness that Ruth Hilton lacks.
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English (289)  Spanish (8)  French (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (310)
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
To end 2016 and to meet a Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge category, I elected to read The Scarlet Letter* by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter is a book that I should have read in high school but never did. If it were not for the challenge, I am not sure I would have ever picked up this book. However, now that I have read it, I am glad I did. Because I was under a deadline, I finished the book in one sitting. Overall, I enjoyed the story even though I had hoped for a different ending. Read more ( )
  skrabut | Sep 2, 2020 |
I admired this novel increasingly more as it went along. It is structurally fantastic, conservatively written, every chapter moving the story forward like perfectly wound clockwork. It is filled with careful analysis of the characters' inner lives and moral quandaries. A couple of standout chapters are especially admirable. It is only Hawthorne's ponderous style that is not my cup of tea. He is in love with words, as am I, but he presents them in immense blocks of exposition that can fill an entire page. He is very fond of telling rather than showing, so I was forced to view practically everything through his narrative voice. The stiffness might be intentional to fit the Puritanical setting, but I suspect it's just him. This alone has probably killed enthusiasm for the novel in more than one young scholar who has it pressed upon them.

The plot outline creates a problem by what it withholds in order to provide a hook. Or I have a problem, in being unwilling to take what an author shows me at face value. Hester has admirable traits, but her entire character rests on the true circumstances of her affair, and those are the novel's primary mystery. I had to assume that her backstory would prove sympathetic. Her daughter Pearl is an even greater enigma, born as innocent as any child but portrayed as if oddly otherwise. I judged this was a realism story and I should not read too much into that; assuming, again. Dimmesdale's implied role looked like a red herring. Chillingworth was the one character I did take as given, probably from a reader's sympathy for his want of answers. The second half of the story clears all of these problems away. I wonder whether I would have enjoyed the first hundred pages more had I known the plot in advance, but I would have enjoyed the second half less. There's some good tension as Hawthorne's 19th century mores head towards playing out in a 17th century setting - or not. With the the entire picture before me, I'm giving this a higher rating than I expected. ( )
  Cecrow | Jun 29, 2020 |
I'm sorry, I know this is an American classic, but ugh. I couldn't stand it. I like 19th century flowery language when it flows, but this didn't flow at all for me, so that it took about twenty pages each time I picked it up to get into some kind of reading rhythm. And NOTHING HAPPENS. They should use this as an example in writing courses of how not to "show, not tell". I had zero interest in the characters and loathed the narrator and his moralistic, superior tone. I feel so very, very sorry for the generations upon generations of American students who are forced to read this and to churn out essays on exclusion and shame.

TLDR: Turgid and smug.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
Ok this book was just so obvious, so much it was painful to read. Yes I understand the point to be made, historically and what not. Even still, it was not enjoyable to me who this point did not need to be made to, I would have preferred it to be made in a different manner, maybe as a side plot or character in a work with actual characters that I can become invested in. No thinking, just yes, yes, are we done yet. Also why would I want to read a book about someone named Hester. ( )
  locriian | May 4, 2020 |
I have nightmares about this book. It was nearly impossible to read. I think I finished it? But I also think I may have skipped large sections of it because it's really bad. A for adultery. Something about a meteor? ( )
  bhiggs | Apr 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (131 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hawthorne, Nathanielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bakker, NelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baym, NinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bonsanti, MarcellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coetzee, J. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Connolly, Thomas E.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cordelli, FrancoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cox, James TrammellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dwiggins, W AIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernie, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Francisco, SellénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, FloNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harding, BrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, DickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levin, HarryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lonza, GiannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, John S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martini, Fausto MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marx, LeoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stade, NancyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tasso, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorp, WillardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valori, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wauters, AnnieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.
[Introduction to Barnes & Noble Classics] The surname of the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" suggests pride in sin and the sin of pride.
[Preface to the Second Edition] Much to the author's surprise, and (if he may say so without additional offence) considerably to his amusement, he finds that his sketch of official life, introductory to "The Scarlet Letter", has created an unprecedented excitement in the respectable community immediately around him.
[Introductory] It is a little remarkable, that--though disinclined to talk overmuch of myself and my affairs at the fireside, and to my personal friends--an autobiographical impulse should twice in my life have taken possession of me, in addressing the public.
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This is the main work for The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Set in the harsh Puritan environment of 17th century Boston, The scarlet letter describes the plight of Hester Prynne, an independent-minded woman who stands alone against society. Having given birth to a child after an illicit affair, she refuses to name the father and is forced to wear the letter "A" for adulteress embroidered on her dress.

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Haiku summary
Self-pity, yes, but
no pity for sinners, just
bigotry and hate.
(DeusXMachina)

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0142437263, 0143105442, 0141199458

Library of America Paperback Classics

An edition of this book was published by Library of America Paperback Classics.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400100607, 1400108551

Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909438901, 190943891X

West Margin Press

An edition of this book was published by West Margin Press.

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