Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne's concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided."

Yes, I know. A classic. Shudder. Before you start lobbing the holy water, though, hear this one out: it won't kill you.  In fact, you may actually end up learning something. There are two main points people bring up if they're arguing against or for this book. On the positive side, the story and material are incredibly thought-provoking and compelling. Characters are strong in their attributes, themes are clear and present, and people can get invested in the things happening. On the critical side, Hawthorne's writing is a bit painful at times. He has a fondness for sentences that take three left turns before arriving at his point; commas and semicolons are his addiction. Additionally, some argue that his symbolism is wrought into everything and the reader is too blatantly hit over the head by it. 

So, my opinion? I think the positive's definitely worth considering. It's one of those books that's very worth it to have read and thought about, not just for the sake of being able to say you've read it. It's very true, though, that the criticism of the writing has some true basis. Some sentences need to be read several times to figure out the original point, and the language on a whole doesn't exactly make for a fluid read. Still, I've read worse, and I think the interest of the characters and themes wins out for me. (Especially Hester. She's pretty incredible). I think I'd recommend it--granted you have a bit of tolerance for exposition. There's copies at Kettleson, Sitka High, and MEHS.