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The Scarlet Letter (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – May 2, 1994
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9-Up Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel of Puritanism giving rise to twisted gender politics, hypocrisy, and strength of character in the face of public scorn is well realized in this reading by Annie Wauters. She gives individual tone and rhythm to each of the main characters, while keeping the passages of narrative relatively uninflected. While this suits the author's own sometimes dry writing, it means that listeners must get to the second hour before the story truly gets underway. Since this lengthy forepart fits almost entirely onto the first disk, and each chapter is clearly marked as to track number on the packaging, it is possible to simply skip ahead rather than give up what becomes a delightfully lively listening experience once the romance gets going. Because the reading adheres so entirely to the print in spirit as well as in word, this is an excellent choice for students who cannot access print or who would like to accomplish college prep reading while undertaking other activities. Sturdy packaging makes this a shelf ready purchase.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850. It is considered a masterpiece of American literature and a classic moral study. The novel is set in a village in Puritan New England. The main character is Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne an illegitimate child. Hester believes herself a widow, but her husband, Roger Chillingworth, returns to New England very much alive and conceals his identity. He finds his wife forced to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress as punishment for her adultery. Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding the identity of his wife's former lover. When he learns that the father of Hester's child is Arthur Dimmesdale, a saintly young minister who is the leader of those exhorting her to name the child's father, Chillingworth proceeds to torment the guilt-stricken young man. In the end Chillingworth is morally degraded by his monomaniacal pursuit of revenge; Dimmesdale is broken by his own sense of guilt, and he publicly confesses his adultery before dying in Hester's arms. Only Hester can face the future bravely, as she plans to take her daughter Pearl to Europe to begin a new life. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Long before the days of Jerry Springer and the shock factor that was his show, there was Hester Prynne and that whole scaffold scene that opens up The Scarlet Letter. The Puritans were pretty riled up about this whole thing.
I think The Scarlet Letter has been given a bad rap. I mean, I think collectively we tend to gravitate towards the negativity, gossip and scandal rather than looking the other way. And, Hawthorne was criticizing the masses and society of his time, in a way. We have become a society obsessed with negativity and sensationalism. Latest trends, headlines, gossip, media. It gives us the chance to voice and condemn others who have fallen (via an anonymous post through our keyboard or other device) and feel good about ourselves.
Well, Hester Prynne and her adulterous affair (gasp) was that Puritan scandal in Hawthorne’s day. Hawthorne takes a few jabs at the hypocrisies, just as we witness hypocrisies in our own actions today.
In another way, I think The Scarlet Letter eloquently examines the nature of different kinds of sin through three different lens and points of view: Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingsworth. Each of these characters has a chance to “redeem” or change the sin that plagues them, either internally or externally, and is given that freedom, whether they choose do make amends or remain stagnant. Redemption is possible, if one so chooses.
I get it, though. To call Hawthorne’s prose complicated and difficult to wade through is a gross and negligent understatement. It’s a bit of a challenge and you will have to spend some time slowing your reading down to get through some of the rather difficult prose.
Yet, when you get past the diction and writing style, there is actually a pretty good story in here. Hawthorne loved him some symbolism, too, and we can see this through the various key scenes and places, most notably the scaffold where Hester is publicly shamed.
I think that The Scarlet Letter is one of those novels where the sum is definitely bigger than its parts.
The Dover Thrift Study Edition makes everything so easy to understand while still giving the reader a chance to find their own way through the text.
The book itself is in the front, but the back holds character descriptions as they come in, chapter (or chapters) summaries and then an analysis of what has happened and what it means in the bigger picture.
Whenever I must read a classic my go to is to see if they have it in a Dover Thrift Study Edition. It makes my life so much easier and I also get so much more out of the book than if I had just read it alone.
It remains an interesting story about the choices that people make--including silence---and the consequences of those choices. I bought the book(s) because our book club wanted to read a "classic" and this novel definitely is one. It's not terribly long and is well worth the reader's time.
The connection of people with a particular patch of earth, even memorably expressed ("oyster-like tenacity") is a relatively minor theme in this work. The dominant ones are "sin," to use a word becoming increasingly obsolete, and which can designate actions and behavior outside of societal norms; guilt; and revenge. There is precious little love in this stern Puritanical society which helped establish America. There are still threads of current societal "norms" that can be traced back to these early beginnings of the United States.
The novel opens in the Custom House in the port of Salem, now well past its prime, sometime in the early 19th Century. Hawthorne for a time was a customer inspector so he was able to draw from that experience to depict the colorful characters who collected their paychecks there, mainly former Sea Captains. A book of old documents was found, and that was the entrée to the story which occurred two centuries earlier. The scene opens with Hester Prynne in prison, for a "sin" that had been committed at least 10 months earlier. She is married, but her husband was not in the Colony at the time, yet she became pregnant, and now carried the child in her arms as she is led to the pillory for public shaming. She has been sentenced to wear a large crimson "A" on her chest for the rest of her life. "It takes two to tango," but Prynne resolutely refuses to name who the father is. Hawthorne deftly handles the plot, gradually hinting and at last revealing who the father is. Meanwhile, Prynne's cuckold husband returns to the Colony, incognito, and obsessively plots revenge upon the father. Meanwhile, over the course of the next seven years, Prynne's daughter develops into a feisty and elfin child, precociously asking questions about the relationships between the key characters. And Prynne herself, even though branded as an outcast from society, through her skills as a seamstress, and her good deeds, at least wins a grudging acceptance from virtually all the citizens of the Colony.
"Feminism" can be an emotionally charged word, covering a wide range of complaints and grievances. Mary Wollstonecraft is considered an early pioneer in addressing the injustices done to women. It would be appropriate to present a man, namely Nathaniel Hawthorne, with an "honorable mention" in noting these injustices. As so often happens, even today, when the prostitutes are jailed, and the "John's" are not, society punished Hester Prynne, and the father "only" experienced his (significant) guilt as the partner in the tango. As Hawthorne expresses it through one of his characters: "It irks me, nevertheless, that the partner of her iniquity should not at least, stand on the scaffold by her side. But he will be known!" Hawthorne has Prynne ruminate on the injustice she has faced, and conclude: "Then the very nature of the opposite sex, or its long hereditary habit, which has become like nature, is to be essentially modified before woman can be allowed to assume what seems a fair and suitable position."
Hawthorne himself carried some emotional "guilt" baggage, assuming, like Original Sin, it can be inherited. His ancestor who came from England went on to become a harsh "burning" judge in the Colony - "burning" as in women, who were labeled "witches." And he was the only judge who never repented for his actions. It was one reason Hawthorne added a "w" to his name to distinguish himself from his ancestor. As Voltaire famously quipped: "It is remarkable how few witches there are nowadays since we stopped burning them." That might easily apply to "enemies" in general.
I first read this novel back at the beginning of time, as a high school reading assignment. Believe I got the answers to the test OK, but most of the rest of it was over my head. The second time around I was impressed with how well-written it is, maintaining dramatic suspense, while addressing fundamental problems of the human condition. 5-stars, plus