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The Scarlet Letter (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – September 19, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library edition (September 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679783385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679783381
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[Nathaniel Hawthorne] recaptured, for his New England, the essence of Greek tragedy." --Malcolm Cowley

From the Inside Flap

A stark and allegorical tale of adultery, guilt, and social repression in Puritan New England, The Scarlet Letter is a foundational work of American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne's exploration of the dichotomy between the public and private self, internal passion and external convention, gives us the unforgettable Hester Prynne, who discovers strength in the face of ostracism and emerges as a heroine ahead of her time. As Kathryn Harrison points out in her Introduction, Hester is "the herald of the modern American heroine, a mother of such strength and stature that she towers over her progeny much as she does the citizens of Salem."

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
The book should be read as the author intended.
M. Galishoff
I have to warn you that it's pretty disgusting the way he is wholly obsessed with the ideas of sin and guilt.
trypanophobic34
I read this book in high school - nearly 20 years ago now - and I have yet to forget the storyline.
Katie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
"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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Katie on August 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book in high school - nearly 20 years ago now - and I have yet to forget the storyline. In fact, although written in a language of a different time, we can find some of the same types of actions happening today - albeit in a more subtle manner.

Overall, this is the story of a young woman who committed adultery, and is caught because she becomes pregnant at a time when abortion was not an option. Although many other people in her puritan community have committed the same "transgression", they haven't been caught yet (i.e. haven't become pregnant), so they participate in ruining this woman's reputation by forcing her to wear a scarlet "A", to symbolize her adulterous nature.

I believe that in our society, people tend to do the same thing - they participate in gossip/making fun of people who have been unlucky enough to be caught doing the same thing many other's are doing day in and day out. For this reason, I feel as though this story is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

I do have to agree that the writing is a bit difficult to get through, as the language is quite different than what we are now used to. But, if you have the time and patience to work through it, I think you will find it to be quite an eye-opener.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Penn Jacobs on April 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
After recently re-reading The Scarlet Letter in this edition, one passage stuck out:

"One day, leaning his forehead on his hand, and his elbow on the sill of the open window, that looked towards the grave-yard, he talked with Roger Chillingworth, while the old man was examining a bundle of unsightly plants.
'Where,' asked he, with a look askance at them,-for it was the clergyman's peculiarity that he seldom, now-a-days, looked straightforth at any object, whether human or inanimate,-'where, my kind doctor, did you gather those herbs, with such a dark, flabby leaf?'
'Even in the grave-yard here at hand,' answered the physician, continuing his employment. "They are new to me. I found them growing on a grave, which bore no tombstone, no other memorial of the dead man, save these ugly weeds that have taken upon themselves to keep him in remembrance. They grew out of his heart, and typify, it may be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and which he had done better to confess during his lifetime.'
'Perchance,' said Mr. Dimmesdale, 'he earnestly desired it, but could not.'
'And wherefore?' rejoined the physician. 'Wherefore not; since all the powers of nature call so earnestly for the confession of sin, that these black weeds have sprung up out of a buried heart to make manifest, an outspoken crime?'
'That, good Sir, is but a fantasy of yours,' replied the minister. 'There can be, if I forbode aright, no power, short of the Divine mercy, to disclose, whether by uttered words, or by type or emblem, the secrets that may be buried with a human heart. The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dane Roberts on November 16, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a vague recollection of being forced to read this in High School many years ago. I just finished re-reading the Scarlet Letter. In my opinion, the Scarlet Letter would be out of reach for many teenagers - like it was for me. Now I'm older and wiser and have been reading classic literature in my bookclub for 15+ years. I have a greater respect for the SL and the new ground it was breaking in literature and I can appreciate the impact it had on future writers. In fact, the reason I picked up SL again was that I had learned that 'Moby Dick' - by Herman Melville - was was dedicated to Hawthorne. So that peaked my interest as I think MB is likely the best American novel ever written.

I think adultry is still a big issue. Anything that's on the list of 10 commandments has pretty well served the test of time. Adultry is probably one of the commandments that many people have somekind of firsthand experience. So even though the story and characters seem archiac at times, many readers of SL can (or will) be able to identify with the guilt and angst at some time in their lives.

So what about the guilt and angst? The parts of the story most interesting to me were the one's having to do with nature and the woods surrounding the small colonial village. The villagers were surrounded by nature along with the fear of the unknown. The Puritan settlers had brought with them their beliefs and systems into a new world that 'shielded' them to an unnecessary extent to nature and the laws of nature. It seemed like the Puritans carried a very heavy moral burden that most were nor equipped to handle. Hester turned to nature to get direction as the village had shunned her and left her with no options.
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