Reviewed by Daniel Colley
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter takes us back to 1642 during the time of the dark early American life that deals with sin, redemption, and adultery. Published in 1850 by Ticknor, Reed & Fields The Scarlet letter is a Historical Romance filled with gloomy events that pull in the reader. The narrator follows an attractive young woman named Hester Prynne found guilty of adultery with an unknown partner and refuses to release his name. Since she refused to expose him she was branded with an “A” on her dress standing for adultery. Throughout the passage she faces many severe times that built upon her character making her a strong independent woman rather than the fragile thing she was to begin with. The best part of the book, the central conflict, and central theme will be explained.
The best part of this title is when they introduce Hester Prynne on the scaffold. In the passage they humiliate Hester in front of the city by making to wear the “A” which stands for adultery. When she initially walks onto the platform the women were astonished by the precisely embroidered letter on her chest that she wore so proudly, instead of showing guilt and regret, she stands strong and isn’t ashamed of her actions. The women of the town are filled with hate for her because her natural beauty and ability to carry herself without indignity. The women of the city despise Hester for her beauty which is to often a common thing even in the modern society.
Hester Prynne has an affair with another man and creates a child and she refuses to reveal while her husband was supposedly lost at sea. Hester spots her husband while standing on the scaffold being humiliated for the first time in years and realizes he has changed his name and disguised himself as a doctor while he plans his revenge on her for cheating. Throughout years he torments her with constant strive and provocation in order for her to reveal her secret lover that she had the child with while he was gone. The biggest reason she doesn’t respond with evil and malice is because she child she holds is so precious to her. Finally, when she finally gives it away who her secret lover is her husband who has strived so hard to get the name realizes that he has become the monster that he saw in her at the scaffold and is filled with shame. The passage comes to a close when her lover is exposed and dies after announcing his guilt. Hester leaves to have a new start with Pearl using the money Dimmesdale has left for them.
The theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is revenge and growth. The name “Chillingworth” was picked to add to the never ending years of psychological torment he gave Hester's lover Dimmesdale. Chillingworth’s never ending torment turns him into a monster that seeks nothing but revenge and refuses to take a second to think about the chilling thought of him being the cause for all the strive. Hester and Dimmesdale grow from their sin and Dimmesdale dies to redeem himself of the guilt he had by confessing in front of the town and leaving his money to Hester and their daughter Pearl. Hester grows and changes the meaning of the letter “A” from adulterer to meaning able, she spends her time doing charity work and changing the hearts and minds of people and growing into the strong lady that seeks nothing but a new life with her lover. In the final chapter “ But Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period not merely estranged, but outlawed, from society, had habituated herself to such latitude of speculation as was altogether foreign to the clergyman. She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness. . . . The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss” (153). This quote from the passage bring the suffering Hester had endured and the teachings of them that forced her to grow into a bold stronger woman.
The Scarlet Letter deserves a well-earned 4 star through its use of symbolism and the contrast of redemption, revenge, evil, and good. I would recommend this title to readers who enjoy a mystery romance with the occasional grim moments that give us the prying urge to turn the page. If you enjoyed this title I recommend checking out The Marble Faun and The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thank you for reading this review and I hope it gave your insight on what to expect for this great title.