The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Scarlet Letter is one of those books that I feel like I was supposed to have read in High School, but it was never assigned. The high school teacher at my school does read it with some classes. It was also recommended to me by my wife. When I chose it was my classic to read this time I knew that it was about a woman who had to wear a red A because she had been (view spoiler)[adulterous and I had the vague premonition that it had been with a clergyman (hide spoiler)]. Although the book wasn't all that surprising or shocking to me, I can see why it was at the time when it was written. This is also a book where I have not heard a lot of textual analysis and I'm sure I could pull more out of a closer reading, but I pulled out a few main things. First, Hester [about my only complaint about the book is that the reader I swear said Ester the whole time] is not really ashamed of what she did, or a least is not going to let it define her. Her daughter, (view spoiler)[born out of the adultery (hide spoiler)] even views the scarlet A as adornment or jewelry that her mother wore and didn't recognize her without it on briefly at one point in the book. Hester is described as being the most helpful and outstanding citizen who took care of those around her, even though they shunned her some for what she had done. Meanwhile, her lover was tormented by what he had done and hid his sin shamefully. Although the book is probably a criticism of Puritan legalism, like The Crucible later did to fight against McCarthyism, it seems to say that we can take the sin or thing that shames us the most and rise above it and not let it define us. I've thought much about what big sin might be and what I could do to over come it. I haven't been able to settle on one, but the book has made me think. That alone made it worth the read to me.
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