Book :: The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter
By: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Pages: 228
Published: 1850
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Rating: (19)


187 points

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The great classic created and priced especially for students. Each page has a special margin for students to take notes on. Visit for a list of other student editions.

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Polilla-Lynn Polilla-Lynn

Young and beautiful Hester Prynne, unmarried, is publicly punished because she had given birth to a baby girl. It is in the 1800s, and she has to wear a scarlet letter A which marks her. She refuses to disclose the name of the father of her child, but her husband appears whom she had thought was dead. Learning of her affair he seeks revenge. This is a good story but drags at times.

Mar 13th, 2021

forline forline

Dec 31st, 2017

Murfville Murfville

Aug 27th, 2017

Jeysa1301 Jeysa1301

Jun 2nd, 2017

red13x red13x

Not too bad! I found the language a little tricky at testing at times, causing me to have to re-read a page here and there to understand what had just happened. I liked the story though, it is worth sticking to and reading in full.

Jul 26th, 2015

Jsscnewman Jsscnewman

Jul 2nd, 2015

bryanoz bryanoz

Jun 25th, 2015

sanayhs sanayhs

Apr 10th, 2015

notathreatinsight notathreatinsight

Dec 30th, 2014

jwk jwk

Dec 12th, 2014

acpac2004 acpac2004

Jul 25th, 2014

Fede Fede

Feb 20th, 2014

Mojo2dmax Mojo2dmax

Feb 19th, 2014


I have to admit, it gets boring. It's good, if you can stick with it and understand the language, yet it will still be boring towards the final chapters.

Dec 23rd, 2013

ibastias ibastias

Dec 10th, 2013


Boring as hell...but nonetheless an interesting read. There's alot of interesting topics covered in this novel and there's alot of great symbolism.

Nov 17th, 2013

aola aola

Jul 21st, 2013

Jordanmagill Jordanmagill

Convicting, heart-wrenching, very spiritual.

Apr 18th, 2013

bookinginheels bookinginheels

The plot of the novel isn't much explained on the blurb - it explains Hester's situation, but not the emotional journey she faces throughout. In fact, it's not even primarily about her. The point of view stays mostly with the father of the child, with a little about Pearl and less about her mother. I won't mention who the father actually is, although he's identified to the reader fairly early on. Regardless of his identity, the novel narrates his struggle with the burden of his sin - he has not been punished as Hester has and so feels the weight more heavily. I had steeled myself for a novel-length lecture on weakness and untrustworthiness of women, while men are strong but are tempted to sin by those evil women. In fact, I found it fairly pro-women. A lot of reviews have slated it as anti-feminist but I really, really don't see it. Obviously Hester is spurned by her village (it's set in the 1640s, after all) for her adultery, but she is ordered several times to name the father so he can be adequately punished also. It's mentioned several times they're both condemned, not just her. The narrative seems to pity her somewhat - she always holds herself with dignity and fervently tries to repent for her sin. The reader's attention is often drawn to this in an attempt to make us feel for her what her village cannot. My copy of The Scarlet Letter has a huge red 'A' stamped on the front, but it would be impossible to forget it regardless. Mr. Hawthorne calls attention to it frequently so Hester is somehow embodied by that one red patch of colour. It almost has a life of its own - it's what the townsfolk see when they look at her and Pearl can't quite get past the symbol embroidered on her mother's chest. It's a very moving piece of imagery. It's not really light reading. It's taken me a good few days to struggle through, to be honest. The story is wonderful, but the prose and dialogue can be a bit... stodgy. Although it was written in 1850, it's set two hundred years earlier and the syntax reflects that. It's rather preachy and moralistic, but that's only to be expected. I'd only recommend picking it up if you're willing to exert a lot of time and effort into it. It's definitely worth it, but it's a slog. I really liked the ending, although it's not what I would have expected. It's not happy nor sad, but it is a fitting conclusion. It was especially clever how the townsfolk each adapted the spectacle to suit their own beliefs and wishes. That's what the book was about, for me - about the emotion and judgement of regular people, and how sin can more easily be borne when it's not kept to yourself.

Apr 1st, 2013

The Scarlet Letter appears on these lists...

42nd on The Novel 100 by Daniel S. Bert

20th on 100 Greatest Novels of All Time by The Guardian

54th on Top 100 Books by Harvard Book Store