Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book 42-The Scarlet Letter (69th Book)

Book 42 was The Scarlet Letter. I was excited to read it because I had visited Nathaniel Hawthorne's grave in Sleep Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. It was interesting because the beginning of the book starts off describing the sea port of Salem. I was there too and loved the historical significance of  a town based on the witch trials. The story is told as though it tells the true account of a woman who left a diary that was found in an old Custom's House, which is a place where Nathaniel Hawthorne actually worked. The author sets out to tell her story based on the diary.

I wanted to love this book after being excited about the setting, but I didn't. It didn't hold and captivate my attention the way that I wanted it to. It did have some interesting points to say about good and evil and what makes a person strong.

The one thing I did like about the book was the description of the pastor who slept with the adulterous woman, Hester Prynne. He never told and his secret sin ate him alive. As the book progressed he got sicker and sicker eventually leading to his death. It shows how although the trial of wearing a Scarlet Letter was a hard one for Hester she was able to sleep at night knowing that people knew the worst thing about her and still interacted with her anyway. The words laid out in the book, which signify the principal underlying why one of these two characters thrives, while the other dies slowly is this, "Be true. Be true. Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred". There is freedom in being known by others and loved anyway. Pastor Dimmesdale was seen as a saint in the community, but deep down he knew himself to be flawed.

Puritan New England would be a frightening place to live.Everyone walked around with a feeling of superiority over other people, and yet they were all human. I liked a line in the story that shows that we are all flawed and that none of us would be safe in a legalistic community like the one described in the book. "if truth were everywhere to be shown, a scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a bosom".

This book was run of the mill for me, although I didn't hate the book, I wasn't fascinated with it as I hoped. It is great to see that it has become so iconic though, because the author sold very few copies in his life time.


Anonymous said...

I have been trying to read this book for years, but had the same problem as you. I want it to be so interesting and engaging but I would just lose interest and move to something else. It sounds like it does have some great ideas in it though.

Joseph said...

I found the SL fascinating. A Christian myself, as I believe you are, I find that much of Christianity is not much different than the Puritans of Hester's day. Hmmmm...that sounds very judgmental, which is exactly the thing I hope not to be. Suffice it to say, I thought the Scarlet Letter was fascinating, compelling, and convicting. My review:

magicandmystery said...

You are correct I am a Christian. I love it when I find truth in fiction. It is great to see truth depicted in a story format. It can be much easier to see aspects of ourselves when they are told in this way.