The Scarlet Letter


English: Hester Prynne & Pearl before the stocks


English: Engraving of American author Nathanie...


In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne tells the true tale of a beautiful, but doomed woman, Hester Prynne. Set in 17th century Boston, this dark and melancholy story is certainly a classic.


The story opens in sync with the door of the town jail to let Hester into the harsh sunlight, carrying her illegitimate baby girl. For her punishment, she is to stand in shame before the townspeople for three hours, and to permanently wear a scarlet A. She is not sentenced to death because she refuses to name her partner who actually is the weak young minister the town idolizes. Her husband returns from two years separation to find her the object of shame, but decides to not recognize her. Being a men of remarkable intellect he obtains her vow to remain silent about their relationship and sets out to wreak horrible vengeance on his rival.


What I like about Hawthorne’s writing style was that he was able to communicate emotions in strong ways. In the beginning, when Hester commences her life on ignominy, you can feel her heart beat, sweaty palms, and burning cheeks. Artistically done, with well-chosen words, Hawthorne creates his own dark, cold, unforgiving world, were the only bit of ‘light’ comes from Pearl, Hester’s daughter, in perverse, ethereal and demonic ways.


In the conclusion, Hawthorne states that he hoped his readers would come away with the moral of being true; not hiding behind a false good name like the young minister. I thought the moral would be more about adultery, but near the end, the focus shifted from Hester onto the misery of the nervous minster. Although there were a few different points tucked away in the story, I found it to frown on the strict law of the puritans and look at the sin as a thing of passion.


I would say, in all, The Scarlet Letter left me a bit confused about the authors ethics, but intrigued and well satisfied with the story.




P.S. I was pleasantly surprised to find no immoral content. It is very clean, just dark.



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