Saturday, January 1, 2000

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter published 150 years ago this year

First posted 7/3/2020; last updated 7/5/2020.

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne

First Publication: 1850

Category: novel with themes of sin and redemption

Sales: 1 million

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

The Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece and one of the greatest American novels.” AZ It “was the first important novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the leading authors of nineteenth-century romanticism in American literature.” LC As “America’s first psychological novel, [it] is a dark tale of love, crime, and revenge set in colonial New England.” BN “The landscape…is uniquely American, but the themes…are universal – the nature of sin, guilt, and penitence, the clash between our private and public selves, and the spiritual and psychological cost of living outside society.” BN

The story “revolves around a single, forbidden act of passion that forever alters the lives of three members of a small Puritan community.” BN “The main character, Hester Prynne, is condemned to wear a scarlet ‘A’ (for ‘adultery’) on her chest because of an affair that resulted in an illegitimate child.” LC She is “an ardent and fierce woman who bears the punishment of her sin in humble silence.” BN

Arthur Dimmesdale, a Puritan pastor who is the father, “has kept their affair secret [as he] holds a high place in the community.” LC He “struggles with the agony of conscience and his own weakness.” AZ He is “a respected public figure who is inwardly tormented by long-hidden guilt.” BN

“Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, is “a man who seethes with an Ahab-like lust for vengeance,” BN serving up “calculating assaults on the frail mental state of the conscience-stricken cleric.” AZ

“Constructed with the elegance of a Greek tragedy, The Scarlet Letter brilliantly illuminates the truth that lies deep within the human heart.” BN “The result is an American tragedy of stark power and emotional depth.” AZ

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