THE SCARLET LETTER (Annotated): Best Use of Your Mind Ever

THE SCARLET LETTER (Annotated): Best Use of Your Mind Ever

Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 239 pages

Language: English

Published: May 26 2019

The Scarlet Letter opens with a long preamble about how the book came to be written. The nameless narrator was the surveyor of the customhouse in Salem, Massachusetts. In the customhouse’s attic, he discovered a number of documents, among them a manuscript that was bundled with a scarlet, gold-embroidered patch of cloth in the shape of an “A.” The manuscript, the work of a past surveyor, detailed events that occurred some two hundred years before the narrator’s time. When the narrator lost his customs post, he decided to write a fictional account of the events recorded in the manuscript. The Scarlet Letter is the final product.
The scarlet letter is meant to be a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester. The letter’s meaning shifts as time passes. Originally intended to mark Hester as an adulterer, the “A” eventually comes to stand for “Able.” Finally, it becomes indeterminate: the Native Americans who come to watch the Election Day pageant think it marks her as a person of importance and status. Like Pearl, the letter functions as a physical reminder of Hester’s affair with Dimmesdale. But, compared with a human child, the letter seems insignificant, and thus helps to point out the ultimate meaninglessness of the community’s system of judgment and punishment. The child has been sent from God, or at least from nature, but the letter is merely a human contrivance. Additionally, the instability of the letter’s apparent meaning calls into question society’s ability to use symbols for ideological reinforcement. More often than not, a symbol becomes a focal point for critical analysis and debate.
The Scarlet Letter will always be a classic in the world of literature and history.
A must read.

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