Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Reviewed by R. Yelk, December 2021

The novel is set in a village in Puritan New England, following the story of Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne a child out of wedlock. Hester believes herself a widow, but her husband, Roger Chillingworth, arrives in New England very much alive and conceals his identity. He finds his wife forced to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her dress as punishment for her adultery. After Hester refuses to name her lover, Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding his identity. He becomes intrigued by Arthur Dimmesdale, a saintly young minister, and proceeds to torment him. Stricken by guilt, Dimmesdale becomes increasingly ill. Hester herself is revealed to be a self-reliant heroine who is never truly repentant for committing adultery with the minister; she feels that their act was consecrated by their deep love for each other. In the end, Chillingworth is morally degraded by his pursuit of revenge. Only Hester can face the future bravely, as she prepares to begin a new life with her daughter, Pearl, in Europe. This book was written in the 1800’s, making it somewhat of a difficult read. It is dense text with very formal and archaic diction. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading stories similar to Romeo and Juliet.