Book Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Do I even have to summarize? I’ll be brief. Hester’s husband has been gone for months and months, but Hester has had a baby with someone else. As her punishment, the town has forced her to wear a searing scarlet letter on her chest as a form of public shame. The book goes through her life in the town and the hardships she faces in a Puritan community in the 1600s.

Confession: we read this for school. I’d be hard-pressed to pick this classic to read “for fun.” Despite that, I… liked it. Enough.

My English teacher has an unhealthy obsession with Nathaniel Hawthorne, and after reading this book, I just don’t get it. This is her favorite book, and almost all my classmates fell in love with the story as well. Maybe I’m too used to young adult novels. Maybe I’m not that literary. Maybe I’m not as deep a reader as Hawthorne intended his audience to be. But I find it hard to believe the rest of my class holds these qualities as well. I don’t know, I just wasn’t in love with the book.

First of all, let’s address Hawthorne’s sentence structure. One sentence could be a whole passage, complete with dashes and colons and semi-colons and commas and everything but a period. It was confusing! Already, it’s a high-level classic, but then you add in a bunch of loose sentences, and I was completely lost.

Another thing: what really happens? Nothing! Nothing really happens! The characters make no sense. How about Hester lived in the same town as the baby daddy for seven years, but she never, not once, talked with him about anything. Girl. Come on. And supposedly she stayed because she “loved” him? Ha. Untrue. All the secrets and lies the main characters lived in weren’t resolved for seven long years. And they all saw each other. They passed each other in their little Puritan town probably daily, yet they all lived in misery. Insane.

And I like the book enough, but I think the real reason I hesitate to praise it is because I didn’t really understand it. Between class discussions, Spark Notes, and teacher summaries, I had the whole book laid out for me cut and dry. And while I did finish the book, I read most portions out loud to understand the language and writing style and wasn’t able to decipher all the little metaphors and figurative language and twists and turns. I guess it was just too high-level for me.

3 Stars


One thought on “Book Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  1. Pingback: Monthly Wrap-Ups: Jumping out of January | Stealing Pages

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