Thursday 11 July 2019

Hawthorne, Nathaniel "The Scarlet Letter"

Hawthorne, Nathaniel "The Scarlet Letter" - 1850

I have never been a big fan of puritanism or over-religious people who try to put their idea of "society" on everyone else. In this book, a young woman is punished for having relations with a man who is not her husband. Both she and the resulting child are ostracized by the "good people" of a village in New England. Hester seems a wonderful woman but it's hard for her to get acknowledged by the other citizens. And at the time, she didn't have a huge choice to go somewhere else.

Even though I prefer long books, I found that the length of this book was alright because everything got said. The story was rounded up well. I also liked the style, quite a typical classic way of telling a story. I read a review by someone who complained that the sentences were too long. I already noticed that when discussing my first classic book with my English book club more than twenty years ago. Being German, I am so used to long sentences (and words), it feels so familiar. I don't mind that at all. Should you not be a fan of long sentences, you might not really like this classic so much. But I did.

From the back cover:

"The Scarlet Letter is the tragic story of a woman's shame and the cruel treatment she suffers at the hands of the Puritan society in which she lives. 

A settler in New England, Hester Prynne has waited two years for her husband, an ageing English scholar, to join her. He arrives to find her in the pillory, a small baby in her arms. She must, as a punishment for her adultery, wear a scarlet 'A' embroidered on her breast and is consenquently ostracized by her contemptuous neighbours. 

Sworn to keep secret the identity of both her husband and her lover, Hester slowly wins the respect of society by her charitable acts. Her own strength and the moral cowardice of the man who allows her to face guilt and shame alone are brought into sharp contrast in a dramatic and harrowing conclusion."


  1. It has been a long time since I read this one, but of course I liked it. I also have no use for Puritans. That is hilarious about you being used to long sentences!

    1. Haha, yes, we Germans don't like long words, we also looooove our long sentences, preferably with long interjections. We call the "Schachterlsatz" i.e. "box sentence" because he put one box into the next. ;)

  2. Hi Marianne, I read this earlier this year, I think it was. I wonder if maybe the Puritans have been misrepresented in many respects. It's the legalistic righteousness that really stinks whether Puritan or otherwise.

    1. I don't know whether they are represented, I just hate it when people think their way of living is the only one and want to restrict everyone else's. And I have come across those kind of people mostly among self-righteous "Christians" who are anything but Christian. Going to church once a week doesn't make you a good person, following rules you think are best doesn't make you a good person, thinking about your neighbour does it.