Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne's concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.

My Review:
I know it may seem hard to believe, but I did not read The Scarlet Letter before reading it as a book club selection last month.  I think this may be one of the hardest books I have ever read, as I tried to understand the story with it's old world language.  It seems that Hawthorne used all of his characters to symbolize various characteristics and sins.

Hester is the strong-willed heroine of this story who makes a moral error in judgement.  She is persecuted for he wrong-doing, but accepts the punishment from her peers.  The punishment will stamp a wound on Hester's heart and taint her mind and soul for the rest of her days. 

Hester's conviction turned out to be a lifelong persecution, from the entire township.  It was interesting to watch the attitudes of the townspeople, as sometimes they would treat her with respect and friendship, while other times treating her like a thief.  She often found it easier to live in solitude to avoid accusing stares that she was sure to find.

This book seemed to have a bit of flavor that reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials.   I'm not sure if this book takes place before or after that period, but witchcraft is briefly mentioned in the story.  With themes of symbolism, love, and truth, this book made an interesting book club discussion.  With that being said I think I also need to tell you that out of our group of nine ladies, only three of us actually finished the book.  It was definitely not one of our favorites and not one that I would recommend for leisure reading.  I am, however, glad that I finally read this classic.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This book was from my personal collection and I read it for my own entertainment and as a book club selection. 


Alyce said...

I think it's probably one of those books that benefits from being taught in a classroom because of the symbolism and language. It was one of my favorites in high school lit, but I haven't read it outside of a classroom setting, so who knows what my reaction would be today.

Ti said...

I re-read it for book club either last month or the month before and let me tell you... it bored me to tears this time around. I didn't even review it. I couldn't muster up the energy to revisit it.

bermudaonion said...

I read this in high school and doubt I would have understood it if I'd read it on my own.

Jo-Jo said...

Alyce: I can imagine how a classroom setting would have been much more enjoyable! Especially reading smaller segments at a time.

Ti: AAARGH! Boring doesn't even start to explain this one! Yikes!

Kathy: I didn't even want to try to understand it! lol At our meeting everyone had different questions in their book and it seemed that everyone wanted us to talk about their questions...when they didn't even read it! I finally said...I don't want to hear another question since most of you didn't even read it! I just couldn't take any more.

nfmgirl said...

Sadly enough, I haven't gotten to many of the classics yet, and this one is no exception.

Jo-Jo said...

nfmgirl: I haven't read many classics myself either. But now I can suggest to you NOT to start with The Scarlet Letter.

stacybuckeye said...

I read this one quite a few years ago and like it, but I like Hawthorne.

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