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The Scarlet Letter (Modern Library Classics)…
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The Scarlet Letter (Modern Library Classics) (original 1850; edition 2000)

by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
26,84329768 (3.39)2 / 883
Member:Gingermama
Title:The Scarlet Letter (Modern Library Classics)
Authors:Nathaniel Hawthorne (Author)
Info:Modern Library (2000), Edition: Modern Library, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:classic, social commentary

Work details

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

  1. 133
    The Crucible by Arthur Miller (SandSing7, Morteana)
  2. 113
    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (chrisharpe)
  3. 31
    Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (LCBrooks)
    LCBrooks: Allows for interesting comparisons on the subject of double marriage.
  4. 21
    Too Late The Phalarope by Alan Paton (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Sex and guilt in Calvinist cultures.
  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. 22
    The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (chrisharpe, kxlly)
  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. 12
    Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: Hester Prynne has a spunkiness that Ruth Hilton lacks.
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English (280)  Spanish (6)  French (4)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  All languages (296)
Showing 1-5 of 280 (next | show all)
Overly drawn-out descriptions - hard to get through even though it's a short novel. Also the old-fashioned opinions on how they were "stained with sin" because of one action feels jarring to my 21-century ideals. ( )
  ErinMa | Feb 22, 2019 |
I came to this with very few ideas of what it would be. The first section is a framing device that felt slightly clumsy, distancing the author and his time from the story by claming to find evidence of Hestor's story in the attic of his Customs House. I'm not sure it works terribly well. It gets rather sidetracked in describing his colleagues in the Customs House which doesn't do anything to advance the story itself.
Once the story begins, the reader is thrown right into the middle of the action, with the scene starting at the gates of the prison, as Hester is released to the pillory, wearing the scarlet A of the title. The story centres around 4 characters, the remainder of the townsfolk are largely cardboard cutouts.
I don't understand the Puritan mind, it is simply something I can't get my head around. Neither of the two male characters is terribly attractive, and Hester herself has nothing much more than her dignity to make her admirable, but not exactly likeable. The ending struck me as almost out of keeping with the rest of the books, almost melodramatic in a book in which much is said and enacted in a very clam and opressive atmosphere. The thing I found hardest to grasp was what exactly it was in Mt Dimmesdale that led him and Hester to commit the crime in the first place. He seemed to have insufficient sounk about him to have ventrued so much, she seems to be a cut above him.
If a classic is a book that continues to have relevance after it's time has passed, I;m not sure that, for me, this counts. ( )
  Helenliz | Jan 25, 2019 |
This mid 19th century American classic novel is very much set within the ethos and mores of the Puritan community in New England in the mid 17th century. A young woman Hester Prynne with a baby (Pearl) is humiliated by the community and marked with the eponymous letter A for adultery (though the word is never used in the book). The story is about her relationship with her daughter, with an old doctor who is revealed to be her ex-husband, and with the clergyman who is Pearl's father. The story is told within a framework narrative, with an over-long introduction describing the author's personal experiences working in a custom house, where he purported to have found old documents describing Hester's story. Hawthorne is clearly sceptical of the grim joylessness of extreme Puritanism, when he describes one of their rare festive events thus: "Into this festal season of the year ............the Puritans compressed whatever mirth and public joy they deemed allowable to human infirmity; thereby so far dispelling the customary cloud, that, for the space of a single holiday, they appeared scarcely more grave than most other communities at a period of general affliction." The novel is very well written and needs to be read in relatively small doses truly to appreciate the language, though it is short at only 138 pages. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Jan 23, 2019 |
No fan of this classic. I get why it's considered a masterpiece, but it also seems to me as if the biggest fans judge from a position where the moral of a story is more important than the story itself.

Over the course of this novel, we sadly get to know nothing of the inner workings and conditions of the characters, nothing but what the few, very reduced and stilted lines of dialogue reveal of which each additionally gets commented on by the narrator. This narrator is so far detached from the events and the persons who were involved that the whole thing reads like a historical report, with the additional effect that the characters have no nuances or real personalities. Everyone, men and women alike (though apart from Hester, women don't play any important part anyway) are Puritans and nothing else - only concerned with their soul's salvation, their morals and most of all the morals of others, with nothing distinguishing them from each other or giving them individuality. Hester herself is obviously different, but even with her we get to know nothing about her motivations and development, the reasons why she acts like she acts. The only character who breaks the mould is Pearl, and only because she's consistently described as different and weird.

These shortcomings are actually a real pity, because I really liked the story itself, as a thought experiment and insight into a society. The theme of shame, stigma and the way how a society is held together by common morals give the frame for a tale that is, with the view of a modern reader, unbelievably full of bigotry, mercilessness, sexism, self-pity and factitiousness. Unfortunately, the way Hawthorne handles it, it's more like a sermon to be preached from a pulpit than a story to be told at a campfire. Cautionary and lecturing instead of entertaining, and no effort was made to bring both together.

On the topic of style, I guess Hawthorne really loved to hear himself talk. The introductory "Custom House" sketch took 1,5 hours in the audio version and nearly caused a dnf tag. There was no substance, nothing with any tangible insight, just rambling and digressing and going off on tangents that ultimately went nowhere, preferrably in run-on sentences that put half a dozen ideas into a single paragraph.

Yes, I know, it's the style of the time and I can't expect modern efficiency in storytelling in a novel from 1850. Actually, I don't even want to. And still, it's so far over the top that it becomes tedious very fast. Pride and Prejudice is from 1813, and stylistically it's so much more varied and interesting, with real dialogue where not every line gets a comment and real characters the reader can understand and relate to. ( )
1 vote DeusXMachina | Jan 15, 2019 |
I'm not a big Classics fan but I do try to read a few each year. This time my Book Club chose A Scarlet Letter because of the Puritan connection and Thanksgiving time-frame. I had never read this book even in high school though I thought I knew the basics. There were aspects of the story to which I was unaware and it added a bit to the story IMO. However, the treatment of anyone - man, woman, or child - in manner, saddened me so I think that it did give me a greater reason to be thankful for the blessings I have. ( )
  cyderry | Dec 24, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (247 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
Valori, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary 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.
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This is the main work for The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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Self-pity, yes, but
no pity for sinners, just
bigotry and hate.
(DeusXMachina)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553210092, Mass Market Paperback)

Hailed by Henry James as "the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country," Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter reaches to our nation's historical and moral roots for the material of great tragedy. Set in an early New England colony, the novel shows the terrible impact a single, passionate act has on the lives of three members of the community: the defiant Hester Prynne; the fiery, tortured Reverend Dimmesdale; and the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth.

With The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne became the first American novelist to forge from our Puritan heritage a universal classic, a masterful exploration of humanity's unending struggle with sin, guilt and pride.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:14 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Hester Prynne, a young wife in colonial New England, is sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing, as a public acknowledgement of her sin of adultery.

(summary from another edition)

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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

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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