I don’t consider Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
“fiction” because I’d prefer to maintain my impish, indefensible line: I don’t read fiction. So, having read the book lately, my line needs commentary: “I don’t consider classic fiction to be fiction; it’s a classic.”
Perhaps you are unconvinced.
The book is brilliant, classic or fiction, because Nathaniel Hawthorne (statue at left) can get to the heart of darkness.
Any comments about the novel? or the descriptions of Puritans in the book? What do you like most about this novel? What do you dislike?
The story revolves around one Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, the woman with whom he had an indiscreet affair (Hester Prynne), the child of that union (Pearl), and the diabolical doctor, Mr. Roger Chillingworth. I don’t think I’ve read the story through since either high school or college, so I had forgotten some of it … and what really took me in this recent reading was that Hawthorne turned Chillingworth, the secretive husband of Prynne, into one whose soul was destroyed by his possession with revenge on his wife’s lover. And I was taken away by the odd descriptions of little Pearl and how she mirrored her mother’s wild nature.
I must register an issue — that so many learn what “Puritan” means from the stereotyped hypocrite that we find in Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister who impregnated Hester Prynne and who failed to admit his sin and was tortured by his conscience. As his fame rose among the residents of Salem, so his conscience assaulted him for his sin. Puritans, it ought to be observed, have suffered the fate of the Pharisees: the terms have both become synonymous with “hypocrite.” Such is not the case with either Puritan or Pharisee. We owe our children a fair and positive description of the American Puritans.