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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
By: (1804-1864)

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 Tales, A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls, The 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 livelihood 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, 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 instantaneous hit when it was first published and touched a chord with readers all over the world, 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!

First Page:

This etext was originally created at Dartmouth College, and has been modified several times since then.

THE SCARLET LETTER

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

EDITOR'S NOTE

Nathaniel Hawthorne was already a man of forty six, and a tale writer of some twenty four years' standing, when "The Scarlet Letter" appeared. He was born at Salem, Mass., on July 4th, 1804, son of a sea captain. He led there a shy and rather sombre life; of few artistic encouragements, yet not wholly uncongenial, his moody, intensely meditative temperament being considered. Its colours and shadows are marvelously reflected in his "Twice Told Tales" and other short stories, the product of his first literary period. Even his college days at Bowdoin did not quite break through his acquired and inherited reserve; but beneath it all, his faculty of divining men and women was exercised with almost uncanny prescience and subtlety. "The Scarlet Letter," which explains as much of this unique imaginative art, as is to be gathered from reading his highest single achievement, yet needs to be ranged with his other writings, early and late, to have its last effect... Continue reading book >>


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Reviews (Rated: 4 Stars - 10 reviews)

March 5, 2014
I could not understand the first 5 chapters at all. It is very hard to hear someone with such an extreme accent read older English text.
Reviewer: - February 27, 2014
Subject: Slow But Classic
The book is a slow one owing to the archaic language and long descriptive style, but does have very colorful characters and an interesting plot. I do wish there was more uniformity and quality to the readers, however, free is free.
Reviewer: - February 3, 2014
Subject: quality
Seriously, the first four chapters are awful as they are... Chapter 1-2 guy stumbles upon every word with more than 4 syllables, and the girl who reads chapters 3-4 has a so heavy accent, I can't understand a thing...
Reviewer: - October 28, 2013
Subject: English
First 5 chapters were not as interesting but also the speakers made me not really understand much.
Reviewer: - October 14, 2013
The accents are hard to understand, but otherwise this is great (:
Reviewer: - September 25, 2013
Subject: Puritanism and romance
It's true that the readers are not always easy to understand, but the text itself is so wonderful and the story really touching.
Reviewer: - July 14, 2013
Subject: Wonderful book
Great book, well worth the journey. Though I do agree with other reviews, unfortunately the reader of chapter 3 & 4, particularly chapter 3, is difficult to understand. I am grateful to everyone that volunteers their time, and personally love listening to different accents, but chapter 3 detracts a bit too much in being able to understand key words and sentences.
Reviewer: - May 14, 2013
The first four chapters are horrible they have put me off this book!!!
Reviewer: - May 5, 2013
Some of the readers have the worst accents, you can barely understand what they are saying at times
Reviewer: - April 16, 2013
Subject: Listen with patience
This is a great book, and several of the readers are especially strong, but several readers have thick accents, are very monotone, or are simply not talented readers. This book is a classic, and I think it deserves more professional treatment; however, this is a free audiobook and the readers are volunteers. Overall, not impressed with the quality of the audio, but the book speaks for itself. Still worth a listen if you can put up with it.


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