The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne | Teen Ink

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

October 29, 2015
By Lucy-Agnes PLATINUM, Clarksville, Ohio
Lucy-Agnes PLATINUM, Clarksville, Ohio
22 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world." - Justice Antonin Scalia


Can a book which focuses mainly on sin, guilt, and punishment be uplifting? If you had asked me this question a month ago, I probably would have said, "No." But now that I have read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, my opinion has changed drastically.

The story opens with the public disgrace of Hester Prynne, a beautiful young woman of a Puritan colony who has just given birth to a healthy baby girl. The problem with that? Hester's husband has been away for over two years. Thus caught in the crime of adultery, Hester is sentenced to a merciful but cruel punishment: she must wear on her dress, as sign of her sin, a scarlet letter A, and never take it off for as long as she lives. In this way she is guaranteed a life of everlasting shame, branded as a sinner and cut off from all respectable society. She therefore retreats into a secluded cottage with her "little Pearl," the child born of her sin and the one light of her life.

Hester's life, however, is not the only one blighted by her crime. Her husband, at long last arriving safe from Europe after an unplanned stay with the Indians, comes home only to find his wife in disgrace and his home bereft of comfort. He sets out on a mission of vengeance, trying to find and punish the man whose name Hester refuses to reveal. And somewhere in the little settlement is the unnamed partner in Hester's crime, her sinful lover. He may not be disgraced in the public eyes, but he suffers a pain more acute than any Hester has ever known...pain caused by the unconfessed guilt in his heart, and by a Scarlet Letter of his own which only he knows exists.

Filled to the brim with captivating characters and insightful investigations of the human soul, The Scarlet Letter is a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to sink into a good story told in the sophisticated style of an earlier age. Each character, from Hester's fairylike daughter Pearl to the sickly and eloquent minister Arthur Dimmesdale, is a delightfully mysterious enigma, and the masterfully-written climax is one of the most bittersweet and glorious scenes I have ever read.

Can a book so focused on sinfulness and despair be uplifting? You might not believe that it can. But if you doubt, and if you're looking for a nice fireside read, then please, take my advice and pick up The Scarlet Letter. You won't be sorry.


The author's comments:

The Scarlet Letter was assigned as required reading for my eleventh grade literature class. I positively loved it.


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