Monday, June 8, 2015
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
I read the free Kindle edition, not the Penguin one but the cover on the Kindle edition is boring. So.
Literally all I knew about this book going in was that it's set in a Puritan community, and that there's a movie version starring Demi Moore. Oh, and it led to the creation of Easy A, something I will forever be grateful for.
It's a really short book and a surprisingly easy read, given all the "thou"-ing and "doth"-ing. It tells the story of Hester Prynne, a widow in a Puritan town who falls pregnant and refuses to say who the father of her child is. As a result, the super judgey townsfolk make her wear a red "A" on her dress at all time, indicating that she's an adulterer.
Hester goes and lives outside the town with her child, Pearl, and continues to be judged over the years. As the story progresses, it becomes obvious who the father of her child is, and that he's eaten up with guilt about the fact that she's being punished while he walks around town without judgement and without comment. And eventually, his guilt leads him to speak to Hester and confess to the townspeople.
This book was...fine. I'm not convinced it's quite worthy of the praise that's continually heaped upon it, but it's fine. I think it's probably one of those classic books that's easy to read but hard to deal with in the twenty-first century because so much of the story is essentially caught up in slut shaming.
Hester, on the surface, doesn't seem like a particularly strong female character. I mean, she goes and lives in the woods for seven years, still wearing the "A" on her dress at all times. But she never complains, she never cowers away from her punishment. While she doesn't deserve the treatment that she receives, she's strong enough to take it without flinching because that's what her child needs. In contrast, Pearl's father is eaten away by his sin and the guilt he has over keeping silent for so long.
Speaking of Pearl, I found her a little on the creepy side. She's often referred to in the book as "elfish" or "impish". Mostly I thought she was slightly disturbing. She's essentially the personification of sin, but given all the talk of devils and demons that goes on, pretty much all I could think of was all the creepy little girls that have featured in Supernatural over the years and how Pearl would fit in with them very nicely...
I'm not sure it's a book I'd reread in a hurry. But I'm still glad I read it for myself.
Have you read it? What did you think??