For the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge hosted by Karen at the blog Books and Chocolate I opted to read that old chestnut, The Scarlet Letter for the category “Classic with a color in the title”.
I think I may have read an excerpt from this book in high school although I am fairly sure it we did not have to read the whole book. In any case, the “plot twist” as it were was known to me before I started the book but I had never read the story in full of Hester Prynne, a woman living in a 17th century Puritan community who is forced to wear a red letter “A” on her clothing as punishment for having an adulterous affair. The liaison resulted in a child, Hester’s husband is AWOL and Hester refuses to reveal the name of the man with whom she had the affair.
I certainly can see why this title is often selected for American High Schoolers to read and write essays on. It is relatively short, deals with America colonial history and it is chock full of potential themes for essays. But, on the other hand, it is extremely verbose and melodramatic. It took me a comparatively long time to read 250 pages. And the prologue, which had scant little to do with the actual book, was a dull distraction for me personally. Although it was interesting to note that what Hawthorne was satirizing about American politics hasn't changed much in the past 160+ years.
Despite my occasional struggles with the windy prose, I did like it. It was really forward thinking for its time. In fact, I would argue for many it would STILL be considered forward thinking. Hester is a very interesting female character to have been written in the mid 19th century, strong and principled in her way. And it was wonderfully Gothic with lots of supernatural elements that I did not expect that at all, such as scarlet letters burning in the sky.
My favorite character in the book was the love-child Pearl. She is and isn’t a “normal” child as portrayed in the book, but she was a breath of fresh air amid the dourness of the adult charachters. I like how she represents all that the adults in the novel could not outwardly express; she is living embodiment of Hester's shame but also her refutation of that shame.