The Scarlet Letter

A beautiful woman who is punished for the mortal sin of loving a man other than her husband, a cowardly lover, a vengeful husband, a rebellious illegitimate child, and the oppressive and patriarchal morality of 17th-century Puritanism in Boston. Together these form an unforgettable and thought-provoking glimpse of how much social attitudes have changed over the centuries.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was the creator of such beloved works as Twice-Told TalesA Wonder Book for Boys and GirlsThe House of the Seven Gables, and spine-chilling tales like Roger Malvin’s Burial. Scion of an old Puritan family from Salem, Massachusetts, Hawthorne was familiar with the old traditions of the area. He began writing in college and worked as a customs surveyor to earn his life while pursuing his passion for creative writing. His friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson broadened his horizons considerably, and he experimented with movements like Transcendentalism.

The Scarlet Letter is a deeply disturbing novel about gender discrimination, women’s oppression, a male-dominated society, and authoritarian religions. Set in 17th-century Boston, its lovely heroine Hester Prynne is accused of adultery and giving birth to an illegitimate child in the absence of her husband. The punishment mandated for this crime is to be paraded and vilified in public with a scarlet letter A affixed to her chest, signifying “adulteress.” She refuses to name her partner in crime. The missing husband arrives fortuitously at that very moment but does not reveal himself to Hester or the public. Intent on revenge, he devises an elaborate plot to destroy his wife and her nameless lover.

The book was an instant hit when it was first published and touched a chord with readers worldwide, both men and women. It was the first book to be published on a mass scale in the United States. However, religious establishments were critical of the book’s attempt to countermand the rules of the Church and promote immorality. Generations of readers have been struck by its compassion, depth, and deep human concern.

The strong plot and memorable characters have rendered it uniquely suited to adaptations for stage, film, television, and radio. The Scarlet Letter remains a masterpiece of wonderful story-telling, full of dramatic moments, secrets, and mysteries, and above all, for the modern reader, it’s an excellent read!

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