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The Scarlet Letter (AmazonClassics Edition) Paperback – May 2, 2017
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About the Author
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) was an American novelist and short-story writer known for his symbolic, psychological works The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, a town with deep Puritan roots that are reflected in his writings. Hawthorne, considered a Dark Romantic, focused much of his fiction on the innate evil and sin of humanity.
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And therein lies his great weakness. He has a genius for mining the meaning from every action, every movement, indeed, every word of dialogue, but in his exegetical fervor he neglects to simply describe what is happening. What little description he provides is overshadowed by the towering commentary surrounding it.
Perhaps that is why the Puritans are held in such a dismal light in this novel: aside from their intolerance serving as a plot device, they were known for their exegetical prowess, and Hawthorne simply detested in others what was never fully realized within himself. (This speculation serves only to amuse myself.)
Nevertheless, this novel ought to be mandatory reading for all Americans and all students of American culture. Readers and writers alike will only come away from it aesthectically edified and intellectually enhanced.
The Scarlet Letter is a story of courage, hypocrisy, human weakness, evil, and passion, in a way not often equaled in literature. The language, while not a snap for today's American audience, is in truth rich and beautiful. Besides: if you are using your Kindle, the automatic dictionary will help you over the rough spots.
Hester, Dimmsdale, Chillingsworth, and Pearl are unforgettable characters. Don't let your fear of "the classics" rob you of reading The Scarlet Letter. Any efforts to navigate formal language will be far outweighed by the pleasure this wonderful and timeless book.
The writing bothered me though. It was a "tell, don't show" book instead of the usual "show don't tell". The characters would have been much more interesting if we actually got to see the experiences that we were told about or if we were shown an actual conversation instead of the majority of conversions just being relayed via the narrator.