The Scarlet Letter recounts the story of Hester Prynne, a young, recently married woman sent to start a new life in America while her husband remains in England. She is found to be with child by another man. Because she would not reveal the name of her lover after a public trial, she is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A,” marking her as an adulteress. Unknown to her or her lover, her husband stands among the crowd who condemns her. Hester's husband, a cold-hearted man described as “having successfully turned himself into a fiend by taking on the office of one,” moves forward with his plan of revenge in this dramatic page-turner.
Unlike other writers who attempt to depict a time when religious and political zeal outweighed human passion and expression, Hawthorne's experiences provide the background for this novel. His story criticizes the framework of Puritan society in ways so subtle that the reader may very well miss them amidst the fast-moving plot and intriguing, dynamic characters.
Hawthorne's writing is refreshing and real. Making good use of magic realism and vivid imagery, he portrays the Puritan mindset so well that the reader is drawn into the world of 17th century New England complete with witches who fly on broomsticks, people who meet the Devil in the woods and a scarlet letter “A” imprinted in the flesh of Hester's secret lover.
Despite its gloomy message, The Scarlet Letter is also a story of passion and the will to survive. In Hester Prynne we find a woman before her time. Her very exclusion from her town is as much a blessing as a punishment. Marked as an adulteress, she no longer needs to abide by society's rigid expectations and strict morality. Her lover, the minister Arthur Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is forced to deny his desire, his needs and even his humanity because he would not choose Hester's fate.
More than 150 years after its publication, this book contains a message that is as relevant and poignant as the day it was...