⚠️ Warning :: SPOILER ALERT 🚨
RATING :: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
PUBLISHER :: TICKNOR & FIELDS
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED :: 1850
AUTHOR :: NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
GENRE :: Romanticism, Historical Fiction
First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for taking so long to post this review. Having ADHD makes it difficult to get started on anything sometimes. But enough of that… here’s my review on…
“If truth were everywhere to be shown, a scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a bosom.”
-The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorn
We go back in time to the 1600s to the Puritan Town of Boston, Massachusetts, where Puritans have set up social and moral rules to abide by.
Hester Prynne has broken the rules of morality; She is found guilty of adultery and is condemned to wear a Scarlet letter-A for Adulteress-as punishment. She has refused to reveal the name of her lover, the father of her child.
Roger Chillingworth, who had been judged to be dead, has arrived to Boston only to discover that his wife-Hester-has been found guilty of adultery, and has been forced to face public humiliation. Much to his dismay, she will not reveal to him the name of the man who is also guilty of adultery. Rather than reveal his true identity as Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth changes his identity, warns Hester to not let anyone know who he truly is, and sets out to reap his vengeance on his wife’s lover.
Dimmesdale is a minister who is hiding a terrible secret. He fails to persuade Hester to publicly confess that he is in fact her lover, and the father of her child. Although he has not been condemned publicly, his soul torments him day and night due to the weight of his guilt. He confides his secret to no one and believes his secret to be safe… or so he thinks.
Pearl is the product of Hester and Dimmesdale’s sin, and an unusual child with a strange spirit. She torments her mother through her manipulative behavior, and is often difficult to control. Hester is troubled by Pearl’s intense desire to know what the letter on her mother’s bosom stands for, as well as why the minister-Dimmesdale-is always holding his hand over his heart. She’s not aware of the fact that she is the product of Dimmesdale and Hester’s sin.
I read The Scarlet Letter back when I was in junior high & remember how I had no particular interest to read this story. To be honest, even if I had finished reading this book in junior high, there is no way I’d have been able to appreciate the story the way I do now.
I love the way Nathaniel Hawthorne brilliantly describes the thoughts and emotions of the characters in his story; their burdens can be felt and one can’t help but feel sympathy for each of them, even old Roger Chillingworth.
The hypocrisy of the Puritans, who want to abide by moral rules, sends a chilling reminder about the dangers of self-righteousness. Although they look down upon Hester because of her act of adultery, there is no telling what secrets they may also have in their own closet, but this quote from the book suggests the enormity of their own sins – “If truth were everywhere to be shown, a scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a bosom.”
As the story reaches its climax, I’m hoping for a happy ending only to end up a little disappointed, but only because the two lovers of the story don’t get their happy ending with one another after the years of torment.
All in all, The Scarlet Letter is a story that can be related to even in these times. It can be appreciated for it’s lessons, it’s literature, and it’s characters. Although we’ve come a long way as humans to extend compassion, equality, tolerance, and love, there are communities around the world that still hold onto a spirit of self righteousness just like the Puritans in the story.
One of the lessons I’ve learned as a result of this story is to be careful about thinking thinking too highly of myself. There are reasons why people do the things they do, and while their actions may not be right, a ‘holier than thou’ approach, I would say, would make me far worse than the one who’s stumbled into one of the ‘gross sins.’
The only reason why this book gets 4 out of 5 stars is because there were often too many small details to keep up with. At some point I felt like the book was lagging. I am happy to have read this book again, but I don’t see myself reading it yet once more… although maybe in the later future.
If you haven’t read The Scarlet Letter, then add it to your list of must-reads. This is one book you should read at least once in your lifetime. 🖤