Book Review: The Scarlet Letter

To end 2016 and to meet a Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge category, I elected to read The Scarlet Letter* by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter is a book that I should have read in high school but never did. If it were not for the challenge, I am not sure I would have ever picked up this book. However, now that I have read it, I am glad I did. Because I was under a deadline, I finished the book in one sitting. Overall, I enjoyed the story even though I had hoped for a different ending.

Hawthorne had written The Scarlet Letter in 1850 and with the introduction of his duties in the Custom House, he presented this as a true story. My volume of The Scarlet Letter was 249 pages long spread across the chapter on the Custom House and 24 other chapters. There were a number of things that impressed me about this book.

I was really impressed by Hawthorne’s command of language and his ability to weave a story. In terms of language, this was another one of those books that expanded my vocabulary. There were a number of words that caused me to reach for a dictionary. Because there are a number of benefits to having a stronger vocabulary, I appreciated the lesson. I was also impressed with the way that Hawthorne described locations, appearance, and feelings. His description of even the most common item was rich with detail. When he talked about feeling, you could actually appreciate the heartache of the situation.

Personally, I thought Hester’s constant companion, Pearl, was important to the narrative of the story. Not only was Pearl a constant physical reminder of the sin, but she also helped to draw out the narrative by giving Hester someone to confide in.

In the end, I had hoped that Hester would roll Roger under the bus and name him as the other sinner. However, this did not happen. I had also hoped for a better ending, at least, I had hoped for a better ending for Hester.

I marveled at the number of different connections that Hawthorne had pulled together throughout the story. I would love to see his original notes and outlined as he brought the story together.

Had I read this book in high school, I am not sure I would have appreciated it as much. I am glad I had waited, and more importantly, taken the opportunity to read The Scarlet LetterTime to find some more classics to read for 2017.


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