“The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

It is always difficult to share your thoughts about classics. Especially when you’ve struggled with some aspects of the book. At least this is the way it is for me. I don’t think my critical opinion holds any value on a global scale. Legendary books will be read irrespective of my subjective impressions. Still, on the other hand, there is no harm in adding one more opinion to the vast number of opinions already expressed about the story.

I can’t say that I didn’t like “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I did like the eloquent, dreamy prose that transported me into a different reality. The image of the seventeenth-century Puritan society the author draws in the story is fascinating.

The main issue that kept me from fully enjoying the book is that it didn’t show me who Hester Prynne really was. It felt like there is a photograph of the main character with a description of how she looks and what her daily activities are on the back. Hester Prynne lacks substance, and without it, it’s hard to relate to anyone, real or fictional.

My assumption is that the author, being a product of his time, simply didn’t have a broad enough knowledge of women and the inner workings of their minds. The fact that the emotional sufferings of Arthur Dimmesdale are described vividly and in detail somewhat gives weight to this theory.

Although inarguably poetic, the author’s style is rather heavy. Some sentences are a Kindle page long. I’m not a fan of short sentences without adverbs and adjectives. For me, language is like clay, from which you can create an infinite number of forms. And still, reading “The Scarlet Letter” was challenging. The introductory chapter was especially taxing, and I was relieved that the author changed the style a little in the main part of the book.

Usually, I have so much to say about what I thought and felt reading the book. In this case, I am at a loss what to share.

The chapters dedicated to Arthur Dimmesdale are piercing, showing a person torn by his passions that contradict society’s rules. He is unlikeable, weak, and self-centered. The author has managed to demonstrate how the man’s emotional struggles led to his physical decline.

Hester’s daughter Pearl also is an intriguing character, but to the readers, she remains an enigma, much like her mother.

Roger Chillingworth adds spice to the story. But since it’s already packed with drama, I failed to appreciate the edge he represents.

All in all, the book hasn’t left me indifferent. It has also left me with too many unanswered questions. It’s not a bad thing to be left wondering “what if”. But with “The Scarlet Letter”, the questions are “What happened in the main characters’ lives?”, “How did they meet?”, “What did they feel about this and that?”. And these are too profound questions not to get even a glimpse of an answer to.

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