Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Ramble-y Post on *The Scarlet Letter*

 People.  This book.  I thought I was going to hate it, but I don't.  It's full of interestingness and ideas and STUFF, which I will now proceed to ramble about.  Oh, and I must put out a major spoiler alert.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  You won't understand what I'm talking about, if you haven't read the book, by the way, because I'm not going to explain who or what I'm discussing.  I have to do that all the time in real life, and I very much dislike it.

First of all, The Scarlet Letter made me very grateful to be a Catholic.  Catholic confession would have been the saving of Dimmesdale!  He wouldn't have had to struggle with all that guilt and hypocrisy, because his sin would have been cleansed by the sacrament of Penance.  But no, he was a Puritan, and so he had to struggle with his guilt and try to avenge it on his own.  I do feel very, very sorry for him, even if he was a spineless jerk most of the time.  But shame is a horrible thing to bear.  It's not even explainable, it's so ghastly.  So I feel for Dimmesdale, and I wish I could hop in a TARDIS or something and bring him a Catholic priest.  (Do TARDISes go to fiction?  I'm not very well-versed in Who-ology.)  I did like that the author had confession (in a general way) be essential to Dimmesdale's redemption.  Hawthorne didn't just have him say "oh, in my heart I'm sorry for this, and that's all it takes so everything's fine now.  Glory hallelujah."  Also, the author didn't make excuses for the sin.  I mean, the whole book is about the consequences of a couple's adultery.

Random point #2: Pearl scares me.  I know she's supposed to be the living incarnation of her parents' sin and their punishment, but the girl is freaky.  You have no idea how relieved I was to find out that she was "humanized by sorrow" and eventually married and had a child.  I would have liked to see what she was like after her "transformation."  Too bad Nathaniel Hawthorne is dead.  A Pearl-centered sequel would have been interesting.

Speaking of weirdness, I was a bit confused by all the mentions of witchcraft.  Did Hawthorne mean to imply that all the flying about in the sky and whatnot actually happened, or was he just giving  the local opinions?  Very strange.

I found the characterization to be very good.  All the characters were three-dimensional: no one was  all good or all bad, yet the division between good and evil was very visible.  Even revengeful old Roger Chillingworth had his sympathetic moment in the beginning of the story, when he admits that he was wrong to marry Hester.   One almost feels sorry for him at that point.

Well, I'd better wrap this up.  It's nearly dinnertime and I'm too hungry to think anymore.  But I shall make this into a proper review by giving The Scarlet Letter 7 stars out of 10, a PG-13 movie-style rating (for mature themes), and recommending the book for readers age fifteen & up.

Note: I did not give the "mature readers"/"ordinary readers" distinction because once a reader is old enough for the mature themes, he/she is already old enough to be comfortable with the style.  Hope that makes sense. 

If you've read The Scarlet Letter, what did you think of it?  (Seton students, my eye is upon you.  I know you've read it because it's required for 11th-grade English, so I am expecting your comments.  Muahaha.)


  1. I'm not a Setoner, I was a Our Lady of Victory-er. Now you make me want to read this book. Really really badly.

    Okay, let me at it! I must read!


  2. It was interesting! And I think I actually read the accompanying Cliff Notes, which was very helpful for recognizing further symbolism. Besides, Hawthorn's daughter became a saint, didn't she? There must be something good there! ;) Anyway, the story was incredibly fascinating. Absolutely, Pearl was creepy. She was a symbol and a sign, as well as a child. I'm glad she was able to become normal, though.

    1. I sorta skimmed the Cliff's Notes. :p Was it really THAT Hawthorne's daughter?? I knew there was a Rose Hawthorne who was beatified, but I didn't know she was Nathaniel Hawthorne's daughter. How very interesting.

  3. I'm a Seton graduate, so yes of course I read this book. I loved this book. While reading it outside, a bird pooped on it. I digress. The lady with a scarlet letter has permanent shame upon her. Her child bears a likeness to Dimmesdale that could reveal him at any moment. Arthur makes an amazing public confession at the end. The whole thing was full of drama.


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