Hey readers! I read another classic this week and it was The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I don’t why but it took me a lot of time to read this book even though it isn’t such a long read. I think it was harder for me to build my interest at the beginning but once I did, I read the latter part of the book quite fast. I read this novel for my AP Literature exam as well and I’m so glad I did. I was a little dubious about reading the novel in the beginning as about a quarter of the book doesn’t actually concern the story. The first chapter is written by the narrator to tell the readers how he acquired the contents of the story he is about to tell. That chapter didn’t grasp my interest and I couldn’t develop the momentum to read the book but once the story actually began, it was just beautiful.
The story is set in early eighteenth century Massachusetts. Hester Prynne is accused of adultery and her illegitimate child, Pearl, is the proof of her sin. The story is set in a time where such sins were not ignored and redemption was offered only by the harshest of punishments. In this case, the church had a very unique punishment for Hester. Ordinarily, a crime of this magnitude led to a public hanging but this time, it may come as a surprise to you, the punishment was just a letter. Hester was sentenced to wearing The Scarlet Letter everyday on her breast for the rest of her life. The letter was a beautifully knitted A which stood for ‘adultery’. Seemingly harmless, this letter was the biggest burden on Hester’s soul. It ostracised her from society and forced her to live in solitude with her daughter. Years passed and she lived in the shadow of the letter. Life seemed ordinary until the day a diabolic messenger resurfaced. He was Roger Chillingworth. He is the antagonist of the story and Hester’s ex-husband. He desperately wants to find Hester’s partner-in-crime and torture him. He believes that he has already punished Hester with the scarlet letter and now justice must be provided to the sinner who remained secret and whose identity Hester refuses to reveal. No one knows about Roger’s former life and he appears to be an old physician. He deceives everyone around him and maliciously seeks nothing but vengeance.
As to the plot of the story, nothing more can be said. The story explores some very interesting elements such as vengeance, atonement and good versus evil. The significance of the scarlet letter throughout the story is very compelling as it motivates Hester to take some very important decisions. It’s interesting to know how the recognition of the letter and Hester changed over time and what the letter meant to Hester. Pearl is a very important character as she is the physical embodiment of Hester’s sin and she is treated differently by everyone. She is considered by the people of Boston as a “devil-child” and her behaviour is quite ambivalent throughout the novel until the very climax of the novel. Another major character in the novel is a young minister named Arthur Dimmesdale. I refrain from telling you more about him to not spoil the book for you. The book involves heavy usage of symbolism and one of the major symbol lies in the title itself. The depth of the symbols add meaning to the plot and sharpen it. I really enjoyed the writing style of the novel as well and I would highly recommend reading this book.
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️