Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Scarlett Letter
As I've discussed previously, I like to have a rotation within my reading schedule. I like to read in an order along the lines of fiction, nonfiction and classic. The Scarlett Letter is one of those classic reads and was next on my rotation. Everyone seems to know the general story...this adulterous tale details the life of Hester Prynne.
The book opens with Hester being led from the small Puritan community's prison, carrying her small child...the product of an adulterous affair...to the town scaffold for the townspeople to ogle and judge. Embroidered to Hester's bosom is a beautiful crafted letter "A"...in such fine detail that even some of the townswomen say it is too fine a punishment for her to wear. Hester and her daughter, Pearl, settle on the outskirts of town in a small cottage where Hester makes a living embroidering. Her work adorns the finest clothing and is even worn by the governor, but never that of a bride.
While Hester was being heckled on the scaffold, her husband finally comes to town...only to discover his wife being shamed. Because he is a rather cold individual, he does not come to her rescue. Rather, he introduces himself to the town as Roger Chillingworth and lets on as a doctor. The town minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, comes down with apparent heart problems that appear to have a psychological twist. Chillingworth attends to Dimmesdale closely. Throughout the novel, Chillingworth begins to think that perhaps there is a link between Dimmesdale's sickness and Hester's secret...perhaps Dimmesdale was her lover.
You, the reader, know there is a link. And near the end of the novel Dimmesdale and Hester decide to run away together so they can raise Pearl together and live as a family...but, Hester finds out that Chillingworth has purchased a ticket on the same ship. They're foiled. In the end of this debacle, Dimmesdale, after church that day, rises to the scaffold with Hester and Pearl...and confesses his sin. Pearl then kisses her father...which she has refused to do before in the novel because he has not proclaimed them as his family despite her repeated request. At this time, Dimmesdale's heart finally gives out and he dies.
Hester and Pearl leave town with no one knowing where they have gone. Hester returns many years later, still wearing her scarlett "A" and returns to her work. Pearl is rumored to have married an aristocrat and begun a family of her own. Pearl also inherits Chillingworth's fortune, even though she is not his daughter. Later, Hester dies of old age and the town buries her aside Dimmesdale. The two share a single headstone...one decorated with the letter "A."
This book was...OK. I have to say it just wasn't my favorite. I can understand that it was shocking in it's time and that it tackles some difficult subjects. It just didn't grab me and I didn't enjoy the character development or plot line. Just my two cents!