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on 9 February 2017
As an English & American Literature student, I had to read this as it is considered one of the greatest defining novels of American literature. Not only in content, but also in narrative style:

- American was considered the 'New World', and as Emerson suggested, America had to stray away from the literary conventions of English Literature, and create its own; and the easiest way of creating something 'original' would be through nature. Hawthorne beautifully encapsulates the innocence, and mysteriousness of the wilderness through the settings within the novel, as well as through Pearl who is the natural, but illegitimate child of love and passion.

- Early on in this edition, Hawthorne points out that 'The Scarlet Letter' is a Romance rather than a novel. Therefore, it embodies elements of the medieval fairytale-like qualities, where the reader simply has to throw themselves into believing the supernatural or absurd.

-What makes this novel the "grand symbol" of American literature is its action/symbolism driven qualities; it is not simply a story of a few characters, but the story of New England, the harsh and brutal laws of Puritanism, the cruel judgement of society, the contrast of youth and decay, etc.
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on 31 January 2013
I had no preconceptions of what this book would be about, which is probably a good thing because it is a good deal more entertaining than it might initially appear. The introductory section (The Custom House) is very tedious and utterly irrelevant and nearly put me off reading the book, so my advice would be to skip that part and go straight to Chapter 1.

Like most novels written in the 19th century, this is largely a morality tale, and the story itself will not tax most readers (although the ‘olde Englishe’ writing style may not appeal to everyone). Unusually though, I did not feel that the author made any judgement about the woman in this story, he just tells the tale and leaves it to the reader to make up their own mind. The plot is very easy to follow; a young woman, Hester Prynne, whose husband is absent, has conceived a child and refuses to name the father. The Puritan community in which she lives could have sentenced her to death for her adultery but instead her sentence is to stand at the scaffold for 3 hours with her infant so that the whole town may witness her shame and then henceforth she must always wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ as a mark of her sin. I guessed the identity of the child’s father while she was still standing on the scaffold and when a stranger appeared among the crowd come to witness Hester’s humiliation, I knew immediately who he was too. There are no surprises here, no twists or turns and the usual compliment of good-guys, bad-guys, big-wigs and snobs are all present. The bulk of the story details Hester’s life as she tries to raise her child on the edge of society, which given the attitudes of the time is something of a challenge for all concerned. All through the chapters, the author hints at the identity of her fellow sinner with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer, which is a bit annoying but somehow this does not spoil the book at all. The religious beliefs of the characters in the story are difficult to understand from a modern view-point but this did not detract from this gentle tale; in fact trying to understand this element of the story just made it all the more interesting to read.
Written in the mid-19th century, but set 200 years earlier, the thing that most delighted me about this novel is the 17th century language in which it is told. Also, the prose is beautifully written and evokes a vivid picture of life in New England in the mid 17th century.
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on 9 June 2018
I can see why this is a classic. The plot itself is great, though a lot of the time it felt like it just took too long to get to the point. I could happily have exchanged all of the content before Hestor's story began with an equal amount extra about the minister or her life, or even more insight into the past.
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on 22 October 2013
Read this, and you'll be reading a nineteenth-century work of fiction. Expect it to be wordy and verbose, possibly a little over-written. It's a product of it's times - find me a nineteenth-century novel that isn't over-written! If you're happy with the style, then you'll enjoy The Scarlet Letter. It centres on Hester, an adulteress who has to rebuild her life while her presumed-dead husband seeks revenge against the husband of her illegitimate child. The introductory autobiography by Nathaniel Hawthorne doesn't really add much, but the story itself is verging on a classic.
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on 9 February 2018
I bought this for a Christmas present for a friend who likes books and reading. It's not however printed all that well with the text going almost to the edges of the pages. Consequently it's difficult to read in the "gutter" and the book has to be held open almost by force. I think the spine will split before long.
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on 20 February 2014
Firstly, the opening few chapters of this book are quite strange, and not related to the storyline particularly - I don't know whether these bits are included in every version, but I certainly found them something to be ploughed through in order to get to the main story!

The story is about Hester Prynne, a woman who is forced to make and wear a scarlet 'A' after she conceives and births a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. There are some salient points about organised religion (in this case Puritan legalism) and how Hester is hypocritically condemned by many people in the village. Hester is likeable. However I found one character to be very strange - Roger Chillingworth - his character seems to change a bit, though maybe this was just my understanding of it! And the child Pearl is also an odd one, but this is more obviously a literary device as Hawthorne uses her to symbolise Hester's sin.

The writing is at times quite difficult to get into because of the time in which this book was written, and this isn't the most gripping book I've ever read, but it's worth a read.
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on 24 February 2017
I'm not amazed, more thankful; that a book written so long ago, in another era with higher (perhaps completely unrealistic) standards of moral code, can be so engaging and be so beautifully and artfully composed. I'd recommend this book to anyone.
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on 24 March 2017
A remarkable insight into puritanical attitudes in 18th century Boston written in a linguistic style that not only challenges the reader with the richness of the writing but recaptures the importance of the use of words that are apposite in contrast to the careless use of the tools of language that is now prevalent in so many situations.
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on 11 September 2015
Even though it is written in seventeenth century English, it is never impenetrable and is frquently poetic. The characters are superbly created and dissected. 'The Scarlet Letter' stands as a master study of hypocrisy and religious legalism. It is also ripe for a modern day writer to adapt Hawthorne's work as a critique of its harsh twenty-first century manifestation: political correctness.
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on 1 January 2017
I had been curious about this book for a long time so I decided to give it a go. While I knew that the subject matter was, the book turned out very different to my expectations. I figured out the central mystery very early on. It was an ok book but I have no desire to read it again
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