Friday, February 3, 2012
Book Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I truly thought I would love this book. I didn't. *she says as she runs from classicists aiming to kick her ass* I really wanted to like it too. I had seen a couple of film versions and I love the story, but I just could not get into Hawthorne's writing in this book. I found myself skimming large sections of rambling text. One thing I will say is that Hawthorne did succeed in making Roger Chillingworth (aka Hester's long lost husband) a thoroughly disgusting character. I remember watching the most recent version of the film with Demi Moore (ugh) as Hester and Robert Duvall as Prynne/Chillingworth. Duvall portrayed the character very well. Every time he was on the screen, my skin crawled. Now I can see that his portrayal was quite close to the spirit of Hawthorne's character. As my skin crawled watching him in the movie, so it did as I read of him in the book. Of course, I can't fault the book on its themes. It is a commentary on the rights of women during Puritan times and the strength of a woman to endure the constraints put upon her by those times. As seems the case over and over is that the woman is set to endure the great trials and succeeds, but the man is weak and cannot endure. Perhaps a treatise on the true strength of women is one of the underlying messages here. So although I say I did not like this book, I can still recognize its importance in our canon of classic literature. I have yet to read The House of the Seven Gables, The Marble Fawn, and others of his works, but I will not allow my feelings about The Scarlet Letter dissuade me from reading them, as I've especially heard that The Marble Faun is excellent. We shall see...
About the book:
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, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.