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The Scarlet Letter
 
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The Scarlet Letter [Format Kindle]

Nathaniel Hawthorne
2.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Chapter 1

The Prison-Door

A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. In accordance with this rule, it may safely be assumed that the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house somewhere in the vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out the first burial-ground, on Isaac Johnson's lot, and round about his grave, which subsequently became the nucleus of all the congregated sepulchres in the old churchyard of King's Chapel. Certain it is, that, some fifteen or twenty years after the settlement of the town, the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front. The rust on the ponderous iron-work of its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New World. Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era. Before this ugly edifice, and between it and the wheel-track of the street, was a grass-plot, much overgrown with burdock, pigweed, apple-peru, and such unsightly vegetation, which evidently found something congenial in the soil that had so early borne the black flower of civilized society, a prison. But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him.

This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history; but whether it had merely survived out of the stern old wilderness, so long after the fall of the gigantic pines and oaks that originally over-shadowed it,-or whether, as there is fair authority for believing, it had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Anne Hutchinson, as she entered the prison-door,-we shall not take upon us to determine. Finding it so directly on the threshold of our narrative, which is now about to issue from that inauspicious portal, we could hardly do otherwise than pluck one of its flowers, and present it to the reader. It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.

Chapter 2

The Market-Place


The grass-plot before the jail, in Prison Lane, on a certain summer morning, not less than two centuries ago, was occupied by a pretty large number of the inhabitants of Boston, all with their eyes intently fastened on the iron-clamped oaken door. Amongst any other population, or at a later period in the history of New England, the grim rigidity that petrified the bearded physiognomies of these good people would have augured some awful business in hand. It could have betokened nothing short of the anticipated execution of some noted culprit, on whom the sentence of a legal tribunal had but confirmed the verdict of public sentiment. But, in that early severity of the Puritan character, an inference of this kind could not so indubitably be drawn. It might be that a sluggish bond-servant, or an undutiful child, whom his parents had given over to the civil authority, was to be corrected at the whipping-post. It might be, that an Antinomian, a Quaker, or other heterodox religionist was to be scourged out of the town, or an idle and vagrant Indian, whom the white man's fire-water had made riotous about the streets, was to be driven with stripes into the shadow of the forest. It might be, too, that a witch, like old Mistress Hibbins, the bitter-tempered widow of the magistrate, was to die upon the gallows. In either case, there was very much the same solemnity of demeanor on the part of the spectators; as befitted a people amongst whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and the severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful. Meagre, indeed, and cold was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for from such by-standers, at the scaffold. On the other hand, a penalty, which, in our days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule, might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself.

It was a circumstance to be noted, on the summer morning when our story begins its course, that the women, of whom there were several in the crowd, appeared to take a peculiar interest in whatever penal infliction might be expected to ensue. The age had not so much refinement, that any sense of impropriety restrained the wearers of petticoat and farthingale from stepping forth into the public ways, and wedging their not unsubstantial persons, if occasion were, into the throng nearest to the scaffold at an execution. Morally, as well as materially, there was a coarser fibre in those wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding, than in their fair descendants, separated from them by a series of six or seven generations; for, throughout that chain of ancestry, every successive mother has transmitted to her child a fainter bloom, a more delicate and briefer beauty, and a slighter physical frame, if not a character of less force and solidity, than her own. The women who were now standing about the prison-door stood within less than half a century of the period when the man-like Elizabeth1 had been the not altogether unsuitable representative of the sex. They were her countrywomen; and the beef and ale of their native land, with a moral diet not a whit more refined, entered largely into their composition. The bright morning sun, therefore, shone on broad shoulders and well-developed busts, and on round and ruddy cheeks, that had ripened in the far-off island, and had hardly yet grown paler or thinner in the atmosphere of New England. There was, moreover, a boldness and rotundity of speech among these matrons, as most of them seemed to be, that would startle us at the present day, whether in respect to its purport or its volume of tone.

"Goodwives," said a hard-featured dame of fifty, "I'll tell ye a
piece of my mind. It would be greatly for the public behoof, if we women, being of mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne. What think ye, gossips? If the hussy stood up for judgment before us five, that are now here in a knot together, would she come off with such a sentence as the worshipful magistrates have awarded? Marry, I trow not!"

"People say," said another, "that the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should have come upon his congregation."

"The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch,--that is a truth," added a third autumnal matron. "At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead. Madam Hester would have winced at that, I warrant me. But she,-the naughty baggage,-little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown! Why, look you, she may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever!"

"Ah, but," interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, "let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart."

"What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown, or the flesh of her forehead?" cried another female, the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self-constituted judges. "This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly, there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray!"

"Mercy on us, goodwife," exclaimed a man in the crowd, "is there no virtue in woman, save what springs from a wholesome fear of the gallows? That is the hardest word yet! Hush, now, gossips! for the lock is turning in the prison-door, and here comes Mistress Prynne herself."

The door of the jail being flung open from within, there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow emerging into sunshine, the grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle, with a sword by his side, and his staff of office in his hand. This personage prefigured and represented in his aspect the whole dismal severity of the Puritanic code of law, which it was his business to administer in its final and closest application to the offender. Stretching forth the official staff in his left hand, he laid his right upon the shoulder of a young woman, whom he thus drew forward; until, on the threshold of the prison-door, she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will. She bore in her arms a child, a baby of some three months old, who winked and turned aside its little face from the too vivid light of day; because its existence, heretofore, had brought it acquainted only with the gray twilight of a dungeon, or other darksome apartment of the prison.

When the young woman-the mother of this child-stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so much by an impulse of motherly affection, as that she might thereby conceal a certain token, which wa...

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up-Actress Elizabeth McGovern reads this acceptable abridgement with precise, clear diction. Her expressive voice is pleasant, effectively using breath sounds and pauses to recreate dramatic moods. Her usually quick tempo keeps the text from being ponderous, but it can be slower when necessary. Given the time period of the original work, her formal tone is appropriate. Her speech changes slightly for the different characters, but there is not much dialogue. The abridgement retains the continuity of the story. Consider purchasing this version for special education students who can't handle the longer, original text.-Claudia Moore, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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2.0 étoiles sur 5 Dur dur 21 décembre 2013
Par victoria
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
Je sais, c'est un classique de la littérature américaine mais j'avoue avoir sauté au moins la moitié du bouquin.
Bon, l'histoire est celle d'une jeune femme seule dans la Salem puritaine du 17ème siècle qui accouche d'une petite fille de père inconnu (en fait le pasteur du coin). Pour la punir, on l'oblige à coudre la lettre A sur son vêtement.
Le reste du livre est consacré à des pages et des pages de morale et de préchi-précha qui m'ont prodigieusement ennuyée.
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3.0 étoiles sur 5 Pas très digeste... 25 août 2013
Par MCM
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
Pour avoir été fascinée par les "Sorcières de Salem" , et les films "Jour de Colère" ou le "Festin de Babette" je m'étais préparée avec un vif intérêt à la lecture de la relation - parait il authentique - d'une de ces effarantes condamnations dont les puritains, tout droit descendus du "Mayflower" se sont fait la glaçante spécialité.
Las, l'auteur nous gratifie d'une interminable préface en forme de prologue , certes riche en descriptions de vieux loups de mer échoués sur les rives de la toute nouvelle Nouvelle Angleterre , avant d'en venir enfin au fait:
Cette ignominieuse "lettre écarlate " infligée à une jeune femme ayant fauté ( seule??) et dont se repaissent toutes les rombières locales, gavées d'interdits , et trop heureuses de s'offrir à bon compte la tête et la peau d'un femelle dangereuse, puisque non seulement sans défense, mais de surcroit jeune et jolie.
Tout celà enrobé dans un pompeux galimatias de vieil Anglais trop visiblement auto satisfait.
SOS ! , quelle que soit la sympathie ( l'empathie) éprouvée pour la petite "Pearl" , fruit exquis mis au monde par la pécheresse, le lecteur s'englue dans un style vraiment indigeste.
Certes, il s'agit d'un auteur du XIXeme siècle , chef d'un service des Douanes de Boston de surcroit, mais on corbe l'échine sous le poids des mots.. Sans le choc des photos ...Pour lecteurs Anglophiles et Phones avertis
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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  297 commentaires
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Classic 25 juillet 2013
Par Craig C. Krueger - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
I am reading, now as an adult, all the books I was supposed to have read and understood to expand my mind in high school and college. My goodness, what I have missed!
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Scarlet Letter 26 juin 2013
Par Reader2307 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
Skip the author's letter in the beginning and jump right into the story! The letter is self-indulgent and it didn't add anything to the experience of reading the story. The Scarlet Letter is much easier to read than most classics so don't be put off by its classic status. Unlike most classics it is written in a no-frills manner which gives you a better chance to connect with the characters and to get to the crux of the story. I particularly enjoyed how well developed the characters were and how you could understand each of their motives, desires and problems. The book is an interesting mix of sex, religion and revenge. Although not the focus of the book it was also interesting to see how real the fear of witchcraft was.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A man who will not take responsibility for his actions and the woman and child who suffer because of that 6 février 2014
Par Leslie Taylor - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
Rich with symbolism and human feeling, the compassionate author leads us to consider deepest plumes of human sentiment. We are artfully led by the hand into the inner corridors of human hearts, where we are taught to stare down passion, shame, despair, revenge and finally courage.

First, we are compelled to walk around in a world where there is no forgiveness. We are removed from the fresh and life-giving promises of the New Testament to a stale and unrelenting universe, a universe in which once you have sinned in certain ways, you are branded for life. Hawthorne’s world takes the world of Jesus and turns it upside down. Where Jesus welcomed the repentant prostitutes and the reformed tax collectors and had his very harshest words for the proud, exacting Pharisees, in Hawthorne’s world the town’s peoples’ sins of unforgiveness and pride are smugly overlooked. Hawthorne’s world does to us what all good fiction ought to do: it causes us to shudder. We feel instinctively the cruelty of the sentence placed upon the young woman and the baby, although we acknowledge her sin. This should lead us to praise our God for the forgiveness and grace that is so freely offered us in scripture. As the Pharisees ask Jesus what they should do with the woman caught in the act of adultery (and where, I always wonder, is the man?), we should know his response: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7

Yet we come to appreciate the large-heartedness of Jesus all the more as we come to live in the world of Hester Prynne. Hawthorne, understanding the longing that we all feel to be welcomed and loved unconditionally within a society of people, haunts us with the solitary and scorned life Hester Prynne is relinquished to. As we sink deep into the mire of her forlorn pit, our hearts should soar all the more with the blessed promises of our great God: “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph 2:12,13

As we walk around in Hester Prynne’s world, we know what it would be like to be separated from Christ, to be alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, to be cut off from the promises of God. And yet we rejoice, because we know by faith that Hawthorne’s world is a skewed, twisted world, bearing no resemblance to the true community of faith.

Hawthorne’s character Dimmesdale is as unlike to Christ as nearly any man can be. Dimmesdale’s portrayal of failed manhood is so epic, I can scarcely think of another rival in literature. Here we see a man so small, so petty, so devoid of the smallest scrap of courage or courtesy, that he sits back passively allowing a woman to not only care for, love, and instruct his child alone, but also do so while laboring under the unrelenting sorrow of his shame. He sees this woman daily scorned, reviled, despised, belittled, made an object of while he walks around enjoying his position of influence and respect in others’ eyes. The fact that his sin daily eats away at him till his health is completely deteriorated does not make him any less pathetic in my eyes. No, he is the more pathetic for it. For he shows none of the manly dominance over human affairs that God gave to Adam when he blessed him and gave him dominion over the world. Instead, Dimmesdale is a peon, a victim of circumstance, a shadow of man, resigned to say simply “come what may,” devoid of action and refusing to take responsibility at every turn.

What a striking contrast to our mighty savior. It is the man Jesus Who in all things takes the initiative. Jesus takes the shame for sins He never committed. Jesus stands up and takes our punishment. Jesus bears all our sorrow and our shame. Jesus, though perfect, identified himself with the lowly, with sinners and allowed himself to be crucified in the most undignified and hideous fashion, next to violent criminals. Jesus, instead of leaving a woman to lonely sorrow while he enjoyed respect, became a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. (Is. 56)

Is the Scarlet Letter a book for today? Why else does abortion flourish today except that we are plagued with a generation of Arthur Dimmesdales walking our streets? We have everywhere men who will not take responsibility for their actions and protect the children they have carelessly fathered. Instead, they take their women to the clinic in the shadows and leave them to the abortionist scalpel, which brands hearts with a letter so hot and scarring, only the red-hot blood of Christ will heal.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A classic for the ages 25 juin 2013
Par Zachary Conn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
If one can overcome the old English language, this novel is of the utmost pleasure. Filled with scandals, love, sex, and religion, this book offers something for everyone. Had to read it as a requirement in high school and loved it so much that I picked the book to do my research paper on it for undergrad.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Despite the old English it is a book that has so many lessons in it on forgiveness; therefore, it is well worth reading. 12 novembre 2013
Par Margaret Harrison - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
I am 80, and when I was in school, we always were taught what a great book The Scarlet Letter is. Of course, the subject matter was not fit for our tender ears in those days. I had never gotten around to reading the book and was so glad I did. It is heartbreaking and yet lovely at the same time. I enjoyed reading it.
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