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The Scarlet Letter (DK Illustrated Classics) Paperback – December 17, 2007
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First and foremost, the pretentious, overly-long syntax. I can imaging Hawthorne today as that guy who *is* very smart, but wants everybody to know how smart he is by the way he speaks, using extensive and seldom-used vocabulary. He clearly realizes that his syntax is too long because he often has to begin a sentence a second time in the middle of the sentence. He's taken so long to get to the point that even he has to go back to the beginning. The effect of all this language and detail is stunning, but it often takes so long to read because of its loquaciousness, that the reader may often get bored and simply want him to be done with it.
Additionally, I've always preferred dialogue over straight narration. There is precious little dialogue overall in this book. The details were lost on me. I really don't know how to analyze why or what I got out of dialogue that I didn't with Hawthorne's style. Perhaps it all had to do with feeling as though the narrative was moving forward. Again, Hawthorne's bombastic style must have made me feel stuck in the muck of details, mostly having to do with emotions, which I had little reference for appreciation.
What I remember most disliking, however, was a feeling of great frustration over not understanding how Pearl was supposed to symbolize the most precious thing God could give Hester after trading a respected place in her community. Personally, to be ostracized and isolated was - and perhaps still is - the worst form of punishment. At that age especially, physical pain would have been far more preferable a form of penance than forsaking all other pleasant peer interaction. Pearl, then, the living embodiment of the parable, is supposed to be this perfect thing for which all earthly goods, wealth, treasure, what-have-you, is supposed to be a perfect thing, worthy of such a trade. Pearl. Is. Weird. She is not sympathetic to her mother's woes, she is freaky intelligent, much more so than any child her age should be, which seemed to me at the time I first read the book to be downright ... Just freaky. I couldn't sympathize with her, and I liked kids! This kid was beyond my comprehension. She was weird, and I felt like Hester got a bad deal. I get it now. I get that Pearl is meant to be other-worldly until the minister finally confesses and reveals himself. Pearl had constantly asked him to do as much and was denied repeatedly. The confession broke the spell that they seemed to be under, and Pearl suddenly became a normal, loving child. I may have more to say yet on this matter, but for now, I am at work and feel compelled to move on.
Today, I have a better appreciation, but I still think the style is a bit ridiculous. It's impressive, to be sure. His symbolism and tension building is well-wrought. His characterization is sublime.
But Pearl is still weird!
There are a few of the classic fiction novels with which I was not impressed. This book is not one in which I am disappointed. It is a wonderful example of the author's masterfully skillful command of the English language and ability in writing a novel that flows effortlessly from idea to idea and from point to point from beginning to the end of the novel. I also cannot go without mentioning wonderful expansive vocabulary. His words were a treat to the ear. He describes a historically inspired story in profound details covering the era and the Puritans with full confidence in his knowledge of both. His explanation of his character's cognitive and emotive forces is wonderfully impeccable and in which I found at no time any cause for a fault on his part. I very much enjoyed the book and I am pleased I have allotted the time in my life for which to give it space to be read.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" is set in the late 1600's and early 1700's in "Puritan" Boston. The story is about fornication and adultery and the consequences those acts -- "sins" -- have on the lives of four people. The story goes into some very dark places of the mind. However, in the end, "light and love" prevail over "darkness and evil".
All-in-all I think the story has a happy ending. I loved it!