Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Title: The Scarlet Letter 
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne  
Original Publisher: Ticknor, Reed, & Fields 
Published: 1850
Purchase: Amazon  |  B&N 

Summary: 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 self divided; trapped by the rules of society, he suppresses his passion and disavows his lover, Hester, and their daughter, Pearl. 






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After I read this for school, I turned in an honest but very school-friendly report. But then Mom told me I could share my feelings freely here on the blog. And so begin the gifs and snark.

I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. Adore him. I think he was an amazing writer, and today's literature wouldn't be the same without him. That being said, I did not love The Scarlet Letter. I loved (most of) the characters, I enjoyed the undertone of criticism of the Puritan lifestyle (another reason I adore Nathaniel Hawthorne), and the story itself was great. I think one of my main problems was getting through the detail; it took forever to get to the next plot point.


The entirety of Chapter 5 was basically a big explanation of how Hester felt. I did not need to know in that much detail how that woman felt. That could've been summed up in about three sentences. Hester did a thing. Hester feels very bad about thing. People no like Hester. I personally just think Nate should've stuck to his short stories.


Another thing. Ignominy. I looked it up. It means shame. If I were old enough to play a drinking game and could take a shot every time I read that word, I would have alcohol poisoning. Not to mention I have to try to sound out how to say it in my head every few lines because it is literally everywhere and clearly is not in my everyday vocabulary. It means shame, Nathaniel. Just say shame.


My above saltiness aside, I did enjoy the actual story. I really felt for Hester and what she went through  the Puritan lifestyle of publicly confessing all your sins and being just as publicly punished for them??


And Nathaniel Hawthorne's subtle mocking of that lifestyle makes me respect him immensely. Talk about a guy ahead of his time. I know that at the time he wrote this, things had gotten slightly better; but it goes without saying that things have improved even more over the years in terms of acceptance and judgement. It’s sad, though, that even now there’s still a long way to go.

I also want to give Dimmesdale an honorable mention. I, like a lot of people, do take issue with the fact that he wasn't punished like Hester was. It's incredibly unfair to place all the blame on Hester when it takes two to tango. However, the way he suffered both mentally and emotionally was heartbreaking; he clearly wasn't a bad guy, and he wanted to help Hester out of the mess they'd both made. Despite the fact that he was a coward and made some questionable decisions, I still liked him and wished certain things could've gone differently for him.

All in all, I really liked this story, and I love Nathaniel Hawthorne and his writing; but I don't think I'll re-read this one ever in the too distant future. However, if you haven't already read them, I highly recommend his short stories (like "The Great Carbuncle," which I absolutely loved) :-) 

© at A Belle's Tales

  

18 comments:

  1. Preach Mckenzie Preach! I remember reading this one is high school and it was a struggle... and I'm sure you are like me where you actually read the assigned books and not pretend and actually enjoy some of the assigned stuff (Lord of the Flies!!! Anything Shakespeare!!! OF MICE AND MEN!!!!) but this one was so so rough and it was very difficult to get through. I appreciated the story and what Nathaniel was trying to accomplish but it just comes off so wordy and pretentious and GAH. It is a classic so I am glad I read it but once is definitely enough.

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    1. Hahaha I love you! Oh my goodness, yes -- Lord of the Flies especially! I'm glad I read it, too, and I'm really glad I got to do my first salty review! Lol.

      ~Mckenzie

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  2. Loved your honest review Mckenzie! I remember reading this book in school as well and just really fascinated by it, yet also sad. Despite the things you didn't enjoy, I'm glad you were still able to like the story :)

    *HUGS*

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    1. Aw, thank you, Magen! And I definitely did like it, but there were just some things that made me cranky! Lol. *big hugs*

      ~Mckenzie

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  3. Ha ha... You made me laugh. I haven't read this book since I was in high school, and I barely recalle it. It is one that all high school kids still have to read. I totally hear ya when authors pull out the big vocabulary. Sometimes I just roll my eyes, thinking really?

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    1. Yay, I'm glad! Lol! It's true. I mean, I'm all for learning a new word; but come on, Nate, Pick another one! Haha. <3

      ~Mckenzie

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  4. Love your review McKenzie. I loved this book and found it richly detailed. I am pretty sure I would have been burned as a witch during this time period.

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    1. Thank you, Ms. Kimba, I just wanted to have a little fun with it :-) I do love Nathaniel, and I liked the story; but some of the details were just a bit excessive for my taste. Well, don't worry, we'd probably have been burning right next to you -- lol! <3

      ~Mckenzie

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  5. Very true, haha! I was never a fan of this book...then again, I wasn't big on any school reading material!

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    1. Haha! Uh-oh. I've been lucky with my school reading, but this one needed me to poke a little fun at it. ;)

      ~Mckenzie

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  6. I had to read this for class not long ago, too... and while I enjoyed the story and the characters, I completely agree with you about Nathaniel's long-windedness! And I remember that one of my professors was completely creeped out about Pearl - she thought she was such a strange child.
    Great review, McKenzie!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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    1. Thank you so much, Lexxie! Exactly! And I'm right there with your professor about Pearl -- she was an odd one, haha. :-)

      ~Mckenzie

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  7. OMG this review slash the amazing GIFs cracked. me. up. Also, 100000% agree about this book - was not that impressed with a so-called "classic-must-read." But please review all the classics so that I can archive your reviews in a book as a gift to future generations of English-lovers. <3 <3 <3 Fantastic.

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    1. Aww, thank you so much, Nyssa! I really did like it -- but sometimes, Nathaniel... sometimes. Lol <3 Love you!

      ~Mckenzie

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  8. GREAT review, Mckenzie! You go, girl!! I loved how honest you were in writing this! And the snarky GIFs -- FUN!!

    I had to read this myself in high school, and I, too, felt it was very unfair for Hester to be singled out. However, there was the fact that she protected the identity of her child's father. Still, if that person couldn't be publicly shamed, as no one knew who he was, then Hester shouldn't have been, either. As you stated in your review, "it takes two to tango".

    The problem you had with Hawthorne's verbosity in Chapter 5 was the very same one I had when reading "Anna Karenina", by Tolstoy. OMG!!! That book was a nightmare! Wading through a lot of really UNNECESSARY detail was truly painful! But I guess that's how they wrote in the 19th century. Long passages were the thing!

    Anyhow, I need to re=visit this one, as I don't remember much of the plot except the basics. I'm very glad you liked the story anyway! And I love Hawthorned, too. I MUCH prefer him to Poe!! Thanks for the review!! :)

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    1. Haha! I'm so glad you got my humor and my snark in this -- like you, I really did enjoy it, but those few aspects just drove me up the wall! I adore both Hawthorne and Poe, and I look forward to reading more of both. Hopefully, I will love what I read, but if not you can expect another GIF-filled review! Lol ;-) I'm also terrified to read Anna Karenina, but I'm sure it'll be assigned one of these days. Joy! Thank you so much for stopping by and for the amazing comment! *big hugs* <3

      ~Mckenzie

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  9. Loved this review! Thanks for the smile!

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    1. Thank you so much, KayLynn! I'm glad I made you smile :-)

      ~Mckenzie

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