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The Scarlet Letter (American Library) (original 1850; edition 1998)

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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21,79122961 (3.39)1 / 654
Member:roblong
Title:The Scarlet Letter (American Library)
Authors:Nathaniel Hawthorne
Info:Longman (1998), Edition: 1, Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, US Fiction

Work details

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

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[From Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1940, pp. 83-86:]

I am bound to confess, however, that on rereading The Scarlet Letter for my present purpose the profit and pleasure I gained were of a limited character. I see no harm in putting things in their proper place, and I must point out to you that the last forty years have seen the rise in America of at least half a dozen much better novelists than Hawthorne ever was. It is only prejudice and the fact that they are alive and in our midst that can blind us to it. But The Scarlet Letter is a famous romance, and it has been read, I suppose, by every American who has read anything at all. For my part I found the introduction, entitled The Custom House, more interesting than the tale. It has charm, lightness and humour. The first thing you ask of a novel is that you should believe it; if you feel instinctively that the characters do not behave with ordinary common sense the spell is broken and the novelist has lost his hold on you. Now, Hawthorne early in his narrative was faced with a difficulty; a reason had to be found why Hester Prynne, free to go anywhere, should decide to remain in the place where the humiliation to which she had been exposed must make her life intolerable; and he found it naturally enough in her love for Arthur Dimmesdale, which was so great that she preferred, notwithstanding the attendant shame, to remain where he was. But Hawthorne did not face a much greater difficulty, for if he had he could never have written the story he did: the facts of life were not unknown to the Puritans, who were as practical as they were pious, and no stork brought the baby to a Hester who never suspected that such an even was in prospect. It is incredible that she should not have gone to some distant place to be secretly delivered of her child, and if the lovers could not bear to be separated, it is hard to understand why, since on a later occasion they had no difficulty in arranging to sail back to Europe together, they should not have adopted such an obvious course when the occasion was so much more urgent. For all they knew Roger Chillingworth was dead and, like Benjamin Franklin with the respectable Miss Read a century later, they could have effected a common-law marriage.

Hawthorne did not posses the gift of creating living characters; Roger Chillingworth is merely a bundle of malignancies, not a human being, and Hester is but a fine piece of statuary. The Reverend Mr Dimmesdale comes to life only when, the pair having finally decided on flight, he is anxious to know the precise time at which the vessel on which they propose to sail may be expected to depart. He has composed his Election Sermon and is unwilling not to deliver it. That is a nice and human touch.

It is not then for its story that I would have you read The Scarlet Letter and if you have done so already to read it again, but for the impressive quality of its language. Hawthorne formed his style on the great writers of the eighteenth century. Such a phrase as: “there was never in his heart so much cruelty as would have brushed the down off a butterfly’s wing” might well have been written by Sterne, and he would have been pleased with it. Hawthorne had a delicate ear and great skill in the construction of an elaborate phrase. He could write a sentence half a page long, rich with subsidiary clauses, that was resonant, balanced and crystal-clear. He could be splendid and various. His prose had the sober opulence of a Gothic tapestry, but under restraint of his taste it never became turgid or monotonous. His metaphors were significant, his similes apt, and his vocabulary fitting to his matter. Fashions come and go in literature and it may well be that the hairy-chested, rough-neck prose which is favour today will in the future lose its vogue. It may be that readers will ask for a more formal, a more distinguished way of writing; authors then will be glad to learn from Hawthorne how to manage a sentence of more than half a dozen words, how to combine dignity with lucidity, and how without pedantry to please both the eye and the ear.
  WSMaugham | Jun 20, 2015 |
I read this one mostly in short chunks on my phone over couple of months, which is not really ideal. I thought the story was slow to start, and I expected to have more about Hester directly than the book actually has. ( )
  queen_ypolita | Jun 20, 2015 |
I always wondered why I didn't read this school in high school because it is a classic, but I am so thankful that we didn't. I had the hardest time getting interested in The Scarlet Letter. I was bored with it from the start and was rushing through it. The few parts I did end up liking were good while they lasted but there wasn't many of them. The overall plot is pretty good but the writing and the details about things that hold zero significance in the story ruined the plot. I was really confused with the characters in the beginning so I do believe that the drama between the reverend and the doctor seemed random when it wasn't but I didn't realize it until later. I am glad to be done with this book, I sort of liked the plot but I will never reread this. ( )
  GrlIntrrptdRdng | May 14, 2015 |
I felt the need to rate this at least 3 stars simply because the writing was so good. In fact, the only reason I finished it was because I loved the use of creative language. But I just don't have the attention span for these classic books! Please never make me read another one! Except maybe I'll re-read Pride and Prejudice again sometime. And maybe Jane Eyre. Maybe. ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
To be honest I was a tad disappointed. I felt like the story didn't really pick up a good pace until the last two chapters. literally.
  mamelotti | Apr 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 220 (next | show all)
No one who has taken up the Scarlet Letter will willingly lay it down till he has finished it; and he will do well not to pause, for he cannot resume the story where he left it. He should give himself up to the magic power of the style, without stopping to open wide the eyes of his good sense and judgment, and shake off the spell; or half the weird beauty will disappear like a dissolving view. To be sure, when he closes the book, he will feel very much like the giddy and bewildered patient who is just awaking from his first experiment of the effects of sulphuric ether. The soul has been floating or flying between earth and heaven, with dim ideas of pain and pleasure strangely mingled, and all things earthly swimming dizzily and dreamily, yet most beautiful, before the half shut eye. That the author himself felt this sort of intoxication as well as the willing subjects of his enchantment, we think, is evident in many pages of the last half of the volume. His imagination has sometimes taken him fairly off his feet.
 

» Add other authors (106 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hawthorne, Nathanielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baym, NinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coetzee, J. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Connolly, Thomas E.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dwiggins, W AIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Francisco, SellénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, FloNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harding, BrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, DickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marx, LeoForewordsecondary 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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Book description
The Scarlet Letter is about a woman who is an outcast in her community due to her child outside of her marriage. It is the story of her life and the life of her child as they are scorned for their sin while the father looks on blameless. This story is about dealing with guilt and seclusion.

I had heard this story for a while. My father always brought up the "A" that was sewn into Hester's dresses. And I think the story-line is really interesting, but I just didn't really like it. There were whole chapters that I felt were pointless. It was just a really slow read.
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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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40 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0142437263, 0143105442, 0141199458

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