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on October 11, 2017
I actually bought two Scarlet Letters--one in this paperback edition for my wife to read; the second on Kindle, which I read. The Scarlet Letter is one of those books that you read in high school (as I did back in high school in 57 to 61). Then you tend to forget how good it was. The book was actually a national best seller--in 1851.

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.
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on October 10, 2017
I figured out why I hated this book so much in high school:

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!
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on June 14, 2014
The "Puritans" were those who wanted to to rid -- "purify" -- the Church of England of any and all Roman Catholic -- "papist" -- practices. Persecuted by members of the Church of England, many Puritans emigrated to New England and settled throughout. They brought with them their beliefs and practices, many of which were extremely austere and severe.

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!
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on July 15, 2016
It's a novel that all serious readers should read. I didn't read it in High School, and regret that I didn't. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and read it. I hope you like it as much as I did, and you'll quickly understand why it's a classic.
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on December 4, 2014
This is not only a great story with characters that we can all understand, it is such a seminal classic that American media, discourse, and entertainment are sprinkled with subtle and not so subtle references to the story. Years ago a good friend, bridge partner, and mathematics professor at MIT told me she had just completed classes for the year with an arcane but funny joke. (Yes, she told it to me and I didn't get it.) After the class laughed, she explained to them that she had to wait until the end of the year to tell that joke because they would not have understood it earlier. And that's one of the reasons we learn and study... we can share inside jokes! (Ok, the title line is a tad lame, but that's how we play with cultural references, new and old.)
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on April 28, 2017
This is one of the best books I've ever read. It's heart wrenching and heartwarming, it's frustrating and encouraging. It has everything in it with a glimpse into the life of the Puritans who settled North America. A different time and a different outlook on life. A book to be read and reread. It's amazing and Hawthorne tells a great tale.
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on February 23, 2012
Who hasn't read The Scarlet Letter in High School? I didn't, instead of reading classics such as this, my teacher had us reading books like Go Ask Alice and Jay's Journal. Did I miss out by not reading this book back then, I think I did, and I think it's a shame that teachers are taking books like this out of their curriculum.
There were times where the story seemed to drag a bit, and at times it was hard to follow the dialect, but that's to be expected with a classic. I did have a hard time getting drawn into the book, as the first part of the book is a mini-autobiography of the author and how he came to write the book. Once I got past this section though, I was drawn into the story of Hester, Pearl, Roger, and Mr. Dimmesdale. How strong Hester must have been to have endured the critisism of her fellow towns people, and not allow it to stop her from being charitable to others in need. My first thought of Mr. Dimmesdale is that he was quite the weak man, but then the guilt of his secret was probably much harder mentally then what Hester went through publicly. Evil doesn't even begin to describe Roger, however a man in his position is probably not going to be thinking straight to start with. Then there was Pearl, her character was the hardest for me to accept. I think the author went a little too far with some of her persistance and insight into thing beyond her years. Overall, the book was well written, and the story gripping.
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on March 6, 2016
It is a classic. The language is older and takes some getting used to, but by the time you've read about a third of it you get used to the style. In my opinion, everyone should be familiar with the story, themes and moral issues that are presented in the book.
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Enthusiast: Guitaron August 30, 2014
As I preface every book review I'm not a book reviewer by any stretch. I'm barely literate, so I'll give you layman's view. My friend told me to hang in there during the slower part more toward the middle chapter, but then it flips a switch and it's a great ride after that. Well worth the perseverance...the writing is wonderful, the story and flow is engaging and it's just simply something that everyone from a scholar to a pro hockey player should have on the shelf. You won't be sorry.
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on June 10, 2016
When I first read this book in my high school English class, I had very hard time reading and understanding because I have just started studying English. I can recall the memory that I got so irritated each time I flip my textbook. After a long time, I came to read this book again to further understand what author Hawthorne wanted to describe. It was a great book to read.
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