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The Scarlet Letter (Penguin Popular Classics) [Paperback]

Nathaniel Hawthorne
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter 3.9 out of 5 stars (43)
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Book Description

25 Jan 2007 Penguin Popular Classics
Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne's concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale stands as a classic study of a seld divided; trapped by the rules of society, he suppresses his passion and disavows his lover, Hester, and their daughter, Pearl. As Nina Baym writes in her Introduction, The Scarlet Letter was not written as realistic, historical fiction, but as a "romance", a creation of the imagination that discloses the truth of the human heart.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (25 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014062080X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140620801
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 11.1 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


1. The Prison-Door. 2. The Market Place. 3. The Recognition. 4. The Interview. 5. Hester at her Needle. 6. Pearl. 7. The Governor's Hall. 8. The Elf-Child and the Minister. 9. The Leech. 10. The Leech and His Patient. 11. The Interior of a Heart. 12. The Minister's Vigil. 13. Another View of Hester. 14. Hester and the Physician. 15. Hester and Pearl. 16. A Forest Walk. 17. The Pastor and His Parishioner. 18. A Flood of Sunshine. 19. The Child at the Brookside. 20. The Minister in a Maze. 21. The New England Holiday. 22. The Procession. 23. The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter. 24. Conclusion. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'One of the greatest allegories in all literature' D.H. Lawrence --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
The Scarlet Letter is truly one of literature's greatest triumphs, its characters and themes reverberating in our collective consciousness more than 150 years after its initial publication. Few novels inspire as much contemplation and feeling on the part of the reader. Hester Prynne, American fiction's first and foremost female heroine continues to haunt this world, inspiring a never-ending stream of scholarly debate. Even in our less puritanical age, some doubtless see her as a villainously great temptress, but to me she is a remarkably brave hero indeed. Her sin is known to all, and she never runs away from it, bearing the scarlet letter on her bosom bravely for all to see; she realizes the true measure of that sin, fretting constantly over the effects it will have on young Pearl, remaining steadfast in her beliefs while at the same time envisioning a new society where women and men can exist on more equal terms, free of the stultifyingly harsh punishments meted out on even the most repentant of souls by Puritanism. She shows her noble spirit by refusing to name her partner in sin and goes so far as to allow the ruthless Roger Chillingworth to torment the man she loves deeply enough to protect him for all time. Little Pearl is somewhat of an enigma, truly manifesting traits of both the imp and the little angel; her questions about the letter her mother wears and the minister who continually holds his hand against his heart reflect an insight that amazes this reader. Chillingworth is a thoroughly black-hearted man; I can certainly understand the blow he sustained as a result of Hester's sin, but his actions and thirst for prolonged revenge on the so-called perpetrator of the wrong he suffered can only be described as roguish and unpalatable. Read more ›
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating. 14 Mar 1999
By A Customer
I am a 48 year old college student reading The Scarlet Letter for the first time. In fact, I have never read any of Nathaniel Hawthorne's works before--doesn't say much for my high school. Hawthorne's use of imagery and double meanings captivated me. ANALYSE ANYTHING--EVERYTHING HAS ANOTHER MEANING. I couldn't wait to read the next page and get to class to discuss it. When I read the passages again, I found more hidden meanings. I've gone on to read more of his works since and would now like to find out more about his family heritage. His family was involved in the Salem witch trials and the persecution of the Quakers during the 17th century. It has been suggested that this has influenced in his writings about guilt, shame, sin, & alienation.
I loved his allegorical treatment of the emotional ramifications brought on by social, family, and religious situations. What was chillingworth's sin anyway? Who cheated on who? I would say that the "goody-two shoe" minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, was the real villain. He never confessed to save Hester and Pearl until his dying day; he had nothing to personally gain by keeping his secret.
I "feel" for all the high school kids that do not appreciate or understand Hawthorne's stories. I suggest that you go to a quiet place, without interruptions--take the phone off the hook, and read. It will take time to get going; a little research would help. Coming to this site is a start. See what others think about his writing--BUT DON'T GIVE UP. You may even have to admit that you like it
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why so critical 9 Dec 2010
By Stubs
I find some of the criticism of this book inexplicable and harsh.

It is essentially a romantic novel with Hester as the woman who has wronged by committing adultery and a woman wronged against by the judgemental puritanical community. Hester along with her lover feel overwhelmingly the wrong they have committed. Hester wears her adultery rounder her neck literally whereas her lover hides it under his heart. And the real evidence of their love is their child - the elfish, unreal Pearl. I think that it is fairly obvious from the outset that this is going to be an uhappy story but the strength of Hester shines through the book. She is a throughly modern heroine.

What I dislike about the book is the narrative. The reader feels that they are going to preached to by Hawthorne who is obsesed by guilt.

But a really decent book on the whole.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first masterpiece of American literature 5 Nov 2006
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," might well be Nathaniel Hawthorne's theme in The Scarlet Letter. Certainly, by all community standards Hester Prynne's adultery is a sin. Worse yet Arthur Dimmesdale has triply sinned since he has had carnal knowledge of a member of his flock, and through a deep and abiding cowardice has failed to acknowledge his sin; and what is even worse yet, he allows Hester to bear the weight of public condemnation alone.

However the worse sin of all belongs to Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband who is not dead at all, but returned in disguise as a physician who has learned the efficacy of various medicinal concoctions from the Indians during his captivity. He pretends to befriend Dimmesdale in order to extract his long and torturous revenge. But it is Chillingworth's character itself more than anything that marks him as the worse of the sinners. He lives only for revenge and to give pain and suffering. He cares nothing for his wife and her child. He cares nothing for anyone, not even himself. He lives only to avenge.

Dimmesdale's sin is that of a weak character. In a sense Dimmesdale is Everyman, the non-heroic. We see the contrast between the proud bravery of Hester and the all too human weakness of Dimmesdale who cannot bring himself to confess his sin, but looks to her strength to do it for him. We see this in the first scaffold scene as he pleads along with Chillingworth for Hester to reveal the father's identity. "Reveal it yourself!" we want to say.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok
Published 7 days ago by Lynne Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars classic but frustrating
As a tale of prejudice in early America I found this particularly frustrating to read and quite a challenge to get to the end
Published 1 month ago by grannie
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit boring
I had to read this book as part of my degree and I found it a tad boring. But it is interesting for showing what life was like in Puritan America and how it has evolved to what it... Read more
Published 3 months ago by bbb77
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful
It the worst book I've ever read, only read it to do my intermediate 2/higher English exam. The story takes a lot of work to understand
Published 5 months ago by Harryb
4.0 out of 5 stars OK
It was my choice and it is well made - Delivered before the expected date - and well packaged - Nothing else I can say
Published 5 months ago by Him & Me
4.0 out of 5 stars has a lovely leather binding
Bought this book for my granddaughter who is at university it was on the list that she gave me of Barnes and noble books she was very pleased with it
Published 5 months ago by lynne daniels
5.0 out of 5 stars the scarlett letter
This book was in great condition all of the pages in excellent condition and arrived really quickly will help with my sons uni work
Published 8 months ago by sussexchick
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Cover!!!!
Given how long ago it was written, a riveting tale.

Although I did skip the introductions as after the first couple of pages, I was bored to tears. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kirstie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great paperback edition of a classic
About halfway through reading this I began to see why it is considered a classic. The pace of the story as it slowly unfolds and the relationships between the characters are... Read more
Published 11 months ago by matt52
5.0 out of 5 stars useful
pure paradise....
now sausage filling...Chal's acerbic wit and, as a former consultant to the CIA, his deep sense of how the national security state worked provided me with a... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Allan Fairbairn
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