Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Fiction / Classic Literature (235 pgs.)


The Scarlet Letter is the story of three New England settlers at odds with the puritan society in which they live. Roger Chillingworth, an aging scholar, arrives in New England after two years' separation from his wife Hester to find her on trial for adultery. For refusing to reveal her lover's identity, she is condemned to wear a letter 'A' sewn onto her clothes. Roger resolves to discover and destroy the man who has stolen his honor.


Some of you may be wondering why I bothered to review this book. "Dude, I totally had to read that in high school. You're not supposed to review required reading books, because they all suck." Well, I assure you this novel is one of the few exceptions. Bear with me.

As I first picked up my dreaded summer reading list for AP Language and Composition, I noticed this title was on it (Yes, I readily admit that I did not read this book just for fun... at first). I picked it up at my local Borders, sat down with highlighter and pen in hand ready for annotations, and began to read away. The funny thing was, I couldn't put this book down.

One of the first literary heroines (and one of the best, in my opinion), Hester Prynne is a character that transcends time. She is a very modern-day woman stuck in the realm of early American Puritan harshness. She does not let others get the best of her, no matter what the obstacle, no matter what the situation.

Roger Chillingworth is the perfect villain. Twisted by hate and jealousy, he is willing to stop at nothing to have his revenge on his unfaithful wife. Devious, he infiltrates at the heart of the mystery, just like any good modern villain would do.

The Rev. Dimmesdale, despite his characteristics of general wimpiness, has a love for Hester that is strong and true. Sure, he's not the breathtakingly romantic type, but he fights hard in defense of his love Hester.

I have no idea what could have made a novel off of my summer reading list so appealing. Maybe it was Mr. Hawthorne's fascinating style of writing, with his symbolism and vivid imagery. Maybe it was the deep connectiong with nature present throughout the book, so characteristic of the Romantic period, that made the story fresh and real. Maybe it was the plot, masterfully crafted, shrouded in mystery, full of cliff-hangers and hidden secrets. It read like a modern historical fiction/mystery novel, only better. I ate it up.

This novel truly transcends time. It is so perfectly written, so shrouded in dark mystery, so passionate. Really, I couldn't put it down. This book, to me, was really exciting. A truly great work of classic fiction.

So if any of you high-school teenagers out there are reading this post, and are required to read the Scarlet Letter for school, PLEASE don't pass up the opportunity. You will regret it. Step out of the box and give the book a try. You won't be dissapointed.

Lastly, just a quick warning about wordiness. Yes, this book was published in 1850, but trust me, the story makes up for that fact.



An interesting tidbit... a new movie called Easy A is coming out this summer, and is a modern take on the Scarlet Letter. It actually looks really good! Trailer below:


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