The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In Brief

Emerging from Boston's prison with a baby in her arms and a scarlet letter A on her chest, Hester Prynne must suffer the public reproach for adultery of the inhabitants of her repressive Puritan community. But who is her lover? Her sinister husband is determined to find out. What follows is a journey to the heart of the human condition, where an agonizing clash between moral, religious, social and psychological forces threatens to destroy more than one life.

Why you should read it

An enduringly powerful work, The Scarlet Letter paints a vivid portrait of the Puritan communities from which the modern United States originated. Through his recreation of a historic past when religious authorities sidelined women and condemned those who transgressed the prevailing moral code, Hawthorne illuminates the hypocrisies and failings of his own time. With its penetrating insights, self-referential wit and fantastical touches, the book is an established keystone of American literature and an important forebear of the modern psychological novel.

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