Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Synopsis: The novel is set in a village in Puritan New England. The main character is Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne an illegitimate child. Hester believes herself a widow, but her husband, Roger Chillingworth, returns to New England very much alive and conceals his identity. He finds his wife forced to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress as punishment for her adultery. Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding the identity of his wife's former lover. When he learns that the father of Hester's child is Arthur Dimmesdale, a saintly young minister who is the leader of those exhorting her to name the child's father, Chillingworth proceeds to torment the guilt-stricken young man. In the end Chillingworth is morally degraded by his monomaniacal pursuit of revenge; Dimmesdale is broken by his own sense of guilt, and he publicly confesses his adultery before dying in Hester's arms. Only Hester can face the future bravely, as she plans to take her daughter Pearl to Europe to begin a new life. (From the back of the book)

Review: I read this book after seeing Easy A, which has become my favorite movie. I was apprehensive going into this book because Hawthorne's verbiage can be a bit much for me. However, once I applied my mind to it, I rather enjoyed his vocabulary and wordy prose. As for the story itself, I enjoyed it. Hester is an engaging character. My only complaint is Dimmesdale, who from the beginning impressed me as a weak, cowardly man. Hester was described as someone with intense passion and strength - why would she want someone so delicate as Arthur? It seem improbable and a bit contrived. Chillingworth was a convincing, if somewhat odd, villain. By odd, I mean the whole "devil got him" thing. Considering the era when the story takes place and when it was written, I will allow liberty for the crazy demon talk. Sometimes I read classics and wonder how they got to be elevated to such a pedestal, but not this one. It's worth the praise it received.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: none

Date Finished: 2-17-2011
Pages: 203

1 comment:

  1. I often wondered how Hester was ever attracted to Arthur for similar reasons. Doesn't seem to fit.