150 of 174 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but hard to navigate ebook
I have long wanted to read this book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was one of the first books I downloaded when I got my kindle 2. The character portrayals are superb. It analyses the thoughts, motivations, strengths and weaknesses of the four major characters in the story - Hester Prynn, the vengeful doctor, the hapless minister and Hester's vivacious and elf-like daughter...
Published on November 5, 2009 by Srinivas Chetty
99 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published on December 14, 2008 by C. Chetty
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150 of 174 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but hard to navigate ebook,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Scarlet Letter (Kindle Edition)
I have long wanted to read this book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was one of the first books I downloaded when I got my kindle 2. The character portrayals are superb. It analyses the thoughts, motivations, strengths and weaknesses of the four major characters in the story - Hester Prynn, the vengeful doctor, the hapless minister and Hester's vivacious and elf-like daughter Pearl. The description of the little girl and how she copes with being ostracized with her mother by a rigid puritanical society, is especially moving. While there are some descriptions of nature that are quite vivid, most of the text goes into developing these four characters and is a fascinating psychological study, though at times it's little slow.
Overall, a well-crafted story and a good read.
The book though is hard to navigate on the kindle because it has no active table of contents. I therefore would not purchase this version at regular price. Luckily, it's free!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not the book you hated in high school . . .,
This review is from: The Scarlet Letter (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
There are so many things I could say about this book, but should I reach the heights of elegance achieved only by Shakespeare, Hawthorne himself, or Faulkner, I could not overcome the horrible, terrible misconceptions most people have formed after having this beautiful novel foisted upon them in high school. Instead, I'll share a few observations and some tips for reading.
First, this is a complicated story. It's not about evil Puritans and hero Hester, although you will read this point of view in the cheat note summaries on the internet. It's not about feminism, really, nor is it about religion in any technical sense. The only comparison that really fits is that of love story, or love triangle, or maybe love square. (I told you it is complicated.) In all of literature, there are very few writers who have penned characters so incredibly real and well-rounded. When you finish the novel, you KNOW these people. Certainly there is some minor societal commentary, but the real story here is about these people.
Now, I'm assuming that many people looking at this page have been told they must read this book for high school English. As a former teacher of said subject, I have some pointers.
(1) Make sure you read the book for yourself. Chances are (in our current educational system) your teacher is going to have a flat interpretation of this book, likely gleaned from some ready-made teaching packet. (If you have another kind of teacher, consider yourself lucky.) You can have some very interesting class discussions if you actually read the material and challenge some of the majority opinions about the novel. Be a rebel. Have some fun in English.
(2) Read *The Custom House* introduction, but wait until after you've finished the book. It's only good in that it explains Hawthorne's view of his own book (difficult and painful) and reveals his struggle to write it. The writing style, however, is decidedly un-Hawthorne and more difficult to read than the rest of the book. If you read it first, you will be unfairly biased against the novel.
(3)Read it SLOWLY, if at all possible. The storyline is complex and should be read with care. I would also recommend underlining and taking notes, if your copy of the book allows it. You will develop a truly deep appreciation of the work.
(4) Finally, avoid the Demi Moore 1995 adaptation AT ALL COSTS. Words cannot describe how awful it is. And if your hope is to find something to help you on the test, the only real similarities are the character's names and the red patch on Hester's dress. If you must see a film version, find the PBS miniseries with John Heard and Meg Foster (made in the 1970s). It does the best job that a film possibly could with this material.
196 of 237 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Scarlet Letter",
Like many reviewers here, I was "forced" to read this book for my English Composition class. However, unlike many reviewers here, I have a much different view of the story. As some people have said before, Hawthorne's book takes a good deal of concentration, effort, and strength to understand. Not only to understand, but to finish. The story can drag sometimes, it is true, and Hawthorne's style of writing occasionally leaves something to be desired (I don't think I've ever seen that many commas, 15 letter words, or page long paragraphs before), but we simply must look past these minor issues. Overall, the plot is highly creative and intense, despite the writing.\
Ok, ok, I agree that the first chapter, "The Custom-House", was pretty bad. In fact, it was so bad and boring that I drifted off to sleep several times while reading it! The first chapter has little relevancy with the story, so, unless you have to, I would suggest skipping that part of the text. The rest is exceptionally good, and the quality of the plot cannot be overlooked. My advice is to just lay off the first chapter; that way you'll be able to enjoy the rest of the book without difficulty.
The story itself deals with sin and adultery, a subject that isn't very popular right now. Hawthorne does an excellent job of telling us about this, but he leaves the reader with many questions floating around in his mind at the conclusion. At the end of the story you're not 100% sure if Hawthorne was condemning the Puritan society, or if he was commending it. He leaves that for the reader to figure out, which is a thing authors seldom do. That's a major reason I believe this work is so unique and timeless.
The story involves a women named Hester Prynne, living in the New World in the late 17th century. She has committed adultery with someone unknown, and, since the Puritan society considered the Bible to be their ultimate source of law, the punishment was quite severe for such an act. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet "A" (for adultery) on her attire at all times, as a sign to everyone that she has sinned deeply. And so she must carry out the rest of her life this way. That's the major gist of the plot, although there's much more. I won't give it anyway, though, you'll have to read the book to find out.
Let's face it: at some time or another we all are going to probably have to read this book, voluntarily or involuntarily. Shouldn't we try to make the best of it? Read it for its enjoyment, anything else would be missing the point.
99 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and Creative,
This review is from: The Scarlet Letter (Paperback)
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth shall set you free.,
This book is the first of two grand contributions that Nathaniel Hawthorne made to American literature (the second being the inspiration that he provided to Herman Melville during the composition of Moby Dick.) Like all great books, this novel deals with issues which are timeless and central to the human condition. Can (or should) the state legislate morality? If so, to what degree? Which is the greater sin, a momentary weakness or a sustained and conscious deception? Which is the greater punishment, public humiliation or private guilt? And, perhaps most importantly, what is the proper response to each? The novel provides clear and compelling examples of tragic consequences which can be avoided by the simple, but sometimes difficult, act of telling the truth. The permeating sadness of the story results from the failure of each character to do so.
Despite comments here to the contrary, this book is not difficult to read or understand, and it is not dull if you can grasp its themes. The ideas expressed are intricate and symbolism is pervasive throughout the story. However, any reader who really wants to understand and enjoy the book should not have great difficulty in doing so. To those readers who feel challenged to appreciate this book, Hawthorne himself offers you a thought (on page 18 of my edition) which you should seriously consider --
"It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual health to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate."
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The History of Dick Tracy!,
This review is from: The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy, 1931-1951 (Hardcover)
This was an outstanding collection of comic strips that made up the career of my favorite crime fighter Dick Tracy.I began reading Dick Tracy comic strips at the age of 5 in the Beaumont Enterprise. Dick Tracy was the embodiment of forces of good crushing the forces of evil.I am now 50 and I still enjoy Dick Tracy. This book is the best of Dick Tracy. You have an early
history of the beginning of Tracy's crime fighting career.This
book features some of Tracy's most evil villains.You have the Blank,Mary X,Jerome Trohs and Momma,Little Face Finny,the Mole,
B.B. Eyes,88 Keyes,Flattop,the Summer Sisters,the Brow and Gravel Gertie,Breathless Mahoney,B.O. Plenty,Mumbles,and Pear Shape.This is a must buy for the serious Dick Tracy fan.This
is the finest of Dick Tracy.Read this and you will become a fan of Dick Tracy too.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scarlet Letter Review,
This review is from: The Scarlet Letter (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
One of the American classics, THE SCARLET LETTER tells of a woman named Hester Prynne in late 17th century who committed the then-unforgivable sin of adultery. She had been living in Boston for two years and had been found guilty of bearing a child (Pearl) by an unknown father. As punishment for her sin, Hester was forced to wear a scarlet A (adultery) on the bodice of her dress and to stand on a public scaffold before Boston's townspeople.
The opening chapter "Custom House" seemed irrelevant to the rest of the novel the first time I read the book. It was not until a couple of years later I found it not true when I re-read the novel. I do have to admit that Hawthrone's writing style can drag at times, the once-seemed boring opening chapter significantly set the mood for the rest of the novel.
"Custom House" does not seem to be an integral part of the story; yet the passage in which Hawthrone tells of having discovered, in the Salem Custom House, the faded scarlet A and the parchment foolscap sheets containing the facts which he says he used as the basis for this novel. The two landmarks mentioned at the beginning: prison and cemetry, point to the central themes of punishment and death, which will be combined in the climax of the novel. Prison might symbolize how Hester Prynne, who wore that scarlet A on the bodice, was forever locked in by her sin.
This entire tale is filled with symbolisms. The prison is described as "the black flower of the civilized society". The tombstone at the end of the book implies that crime and punishment may well bring about the death of such civilized life. The most popular and conspicuous symbol that is well sustained throughtout the book is the scalet A that is worn by Hester Prynne. Initially it is a red cloth letter which is a literal symbol of the sin of adultery. But the author makes the symbol A much more richly symbolic throughout the rest of the tale. The scaffold is not only a symbol of the stern Puritan code, but also a symbol for the open acknowledgment of personal sin. Night and day are symbols for concealment and openness. The sun symbolizes happiness and freedom of guilt. The list goes on and on....
Arthur Dimmensdale, Roger Chillingworth, Hester Prynne, and Pearl themselves, are symbols as well. They reflect certain view of sins and effects on humans and society. The book might take strength and effort to read; but it's not quite a bad read.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intense human drama that transcends literature itself,
This review is from: The Scarlet Letter (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Scarlet Letter is truly one of literature's greatest triumphs, its characters and themes reverberating in our collective consciousness more than 150 years after its initial publication. Few novels inspire as much contemplation and feeling on the part of the reader. Hester Prynne, American fiction's first and foremost female heroine continues to haunt this world, inspiring a never-ending stream of scholarly debate. Even in our less puritanical age, some doubtless see her as a villainously great temptress, but to me she is a remarkably brave hero indeed. Her sin is known to all, and she never runs away from it, bearing the scarlet letter on her bosom bravely for all to see; she realizes the true measure of that sin, fretting constantly over the effects it will have on young Pearl, remaining steadfast in her beliefs while at the same time envisioning a new society where women and men can exist on more equal terms, free of the stultifyingly harsh punishments meted out on even the most repentant of souls by Puritanism. She shows her noble spirit by refusing to name her partner in sin and goes so far as to allow the ruthless Roger Chillingworth to torment the man she loves deeply enough to protect him for all time. Little Pearl is somewhat of an enigma, truly manifesting traits of both the imp and the little angel; her questions about the letter her mother wears and the minister who continually holds his hand against his heart reflect an insight that amazes this reader. Chillingworth is a thoroughly black-hearted man; I can certainly understand the blow he sustained as a result of Hester's sin, but his actions and thirst for prolonged revenge on the so-called perpetrator of the wrong he suffered can only be described as roguish and unpalatable.
Of course, the most complex character in the novel (and literature as a whole) is the good minister Arthur Dimmsdale. One is compelled to both like him and despise him. He is basically a good man and an unquestionably fine soldier in the army of the Lord, winning many souls to God with his impassioned sermons. He is more aware than anyone else of his sinful nature, and he punishes himself quite brutally in private in a useless attempt to make up for the public ignominy he lacks the moral courage to call upon himself with a public profession of his deed. Dimmsdale is a coward and a hypocrite. At one critical moment in the latter pages of the novel, he blames Hester for his state of misery, and it is that comment in particular that makes this tragic character a man I can only commiserate with to a limited degree. Even at the penultimate moment of the novel, as he finally bears the mark of his shame and guilt for all his parishioners to see, the very men and women who have viewed him as a saintly man of God rather than the brigand he knows himself to be, he does not openly confess-his words and deeds do make plain the secret of his heart, but it is his lack of a thoroughly bold confession that causes some of his most devoted followers, so Hawthorne tells us, to blindly judge his final act as an illustrative parable on the danger of sin threatening each member of his congregation rather than an admission of guilt and self-condemnation.
It upsets me to see readers who do not appreciate this novel as one of the earliest and best American classics, a novel that contributed greatly to the establishment of a literary culture in the young country. The language is of a more florid style than today's readers are used to, but this novel is in no way boring. Hawthorne paints some of the most vivid scenes of human drama I have ever witnessed; he writes in such a way that you are there in colonial Boston watching the story play out before your very eyes, struggling to come to terms with your own feelings in regard to such complex and sometimes inscrutable characters. The climactic chapter is truly and deeply moving, more than capable of bringing tears to the eyes of the sensitive soul. The Scarlet Letter is just a brilliant, gripping, thoroughly human novel that I wish everyone could appreciate as much as I do.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sin, Redemption,
This review is from: The Scarlet Letter (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I think the many readers who were forced to partake of this classic were angry at their English teacher for making them read a book so wordy, detailed, and archaic in language. Many of the reviewers' complaints are about the author's style, which is definitely an acquired taste. Hawthorne doesn't merely give you a scene; he tries to tell you what time it is, how and why it is happening, and what each character is thinking as they enter the room. In this way, this can be a turn off to a leisurely reader; it may even be a turn off to an avid reader. The bottom line is that The Scarlet Letter, maybe more so than any other classic, is definitely a matter of style. I tend to admire the book because I can over look some of Hawthorne's unorthodox styles and look for a deeper meaning; if you happen to feel this way, great, if not, then maybe it just wasn't your kind of book.
The main subject in The Scarlet Letter is sin--but not only the sin of adultery (Hester and Dimmesdale). There is also the sin of jealousy and revenge (Chillingworth) as well as the sin of hypocrisy and gossip (Puritan community). Hawthorne's opinion of the hypocrisy of the Puritans seems to be illustrated in the opening scene with Hester coming out of the prison door we hear the Puritan women making besmirching comments about Hester, and one even wanting death for Hester because of her sin--this reaction from a do-good community! The main crux of the story though, as alluded to, is about Hester and Dimmesdale's sin of adultery, and, more importantly, how each of the two protagonists deal with their sin. While Hester's sin is spread out in the public eye of the New England community, and she is shamed publicly, Dimmesdale's sin is hidden, as no one except he, Hester and Chillingworth knows about it. In this way, there are two very paths that follow for Hester and the Reverend Dimmesdale. Hester, after her initial public humiliation and shame, begins life anew, and is able to find a hobby (that of a seamstress) to make ends meet, and her suffering seems to make her able to take on the challenges in life. She is able to deal with the questions and mischievousness from her daughter Pearl, and seems to implore Dimmesdale, who is obviously overcome with guilt, to forget their sin and live free. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, takes his sin very harshly, and not only feels he must punish himself for it, but physically becomes a shell of his former self. Still, Dimmesdale has a remarkable power to still give amazing sermons to the community, even with guilt. Chillingworth, Hester's ex-husband, enters the scene early in the book, and begins to "peck" away at Dimmesdale, knowing full-well that he can break him down mentally and physically with such a weight on his shoulders. During the scenes where Chillingworth is probing the mind of Dimmesdale, there seems to be a symbolic parallel between Chillingworth and the devil (there are several references to Chillingworth being the "black man" in the novel). Dimmesdale can't save himself physically, but he can spiritually. Hester emerges as the novel's hero, mainly because she sheds her former faults, and becomes a stronger person in the process.
The Scarlet Letter is definitely "heavy" reading. It might take you a few times to get through a few of the chapters. But, alas, persevere, and you may find it worth reading. And, take some advice: skip the introductory chapter "The Custom House" and just begin reading with "The Prison Door." I can give you a quick synopsis of the introduction: Hawthorne wrote a book about two people who sinned by committing adultery, and the Puritans weren't happy. As much as people say this book is outdated, it really isn't. I mean, public scandals are a part of our culture just as much as they were then. Hester Prynne is that public scandal, the story you hear on the news or other media outlets. Public infamy, as well as changing public perception, seems to never go out of style.
3 ˝ stars
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, tough read,
I just finished The Scarlet Letter in school. Hawthorne does an excellent job of describing every nuance of this story, and that is why at times it is a little hard to follow. But the very heart of the story is one that we all can compare with. Hester Prynne has committed a terrible sin, and bears The Scarlet Letter on her breast. This classic tale begins with Hester on the gallows platform, alone with her baby, Pearl. Throughout the course of thise novel, Hawthorne weaves his way through characters so that you feel you are a part of this story, and by the end you have no doubts in your mind how you feel about each character. This is a book that you will either love or hate, and it really depends on when you read it. Try to take your time through the book the first time you read it, then everything will make much more sense, and you won't throw down the book in disgust. On a side note, you can really skip the introduction chapter entitled "The Custom House" because it has little to do with the rest of the book.
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The Scarlet Letter (Penguin Classics) by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Paperback - December 31, 2002)