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The Scarlet Letter (Anglais) Broché – 28 juin 2007


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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 was wrought or fastened into her dress. In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.

The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes. She was lady-like, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace, which is now recognized as its indication. And never had Hester Prynne appeared more lady-like, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison. Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped. It may be true, that, to a sensitive observer, there was something exquisitely painful in it. Her attire, which, indeed, she had wrought for the occasion, in prison, and had modelled much after her own fancy, seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity. But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer,-so that both men and women, who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne, were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time,-was that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated5 upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.

"She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain," remarked one of her female spectators; "but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it! Why, gossips, what is it but to laugh in the faces of our godly magistrates, and make a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant for a punishment?"

"It were well," muttered the most iron-visaged of the old dames, "if we stripped Madam Hester's rich gown off her dainty shoulders; and as for the red letter, which she hath stitched so curiously, I'll bestow a rag of mine own rheumatic flannel, to make a fitter one!"

"Oh, peace, neighbors, peace!" whispered their youngest companion; "do not let her hear you! Not a stitch in that embroidered letter, but she has felt it in her heart."

The grim beadle now made a gesture with his staff.

"Make way, good people, make way, in the King's name!" cried he. "Open a passage; and, I promise ye, Mistress Prynne shall be set where man, woman, and child may have a fair sight of her brave apparel, from this time till an hour past meridian. A blessing on the righteous Colony of the Massachusetts, where iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine! Come along, Madam Hester, and show your scarlet letter in the market-place!" --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .

Revue de presse

"[Nathaniel Hawthorne] recaptured, for his New England, the essence of Greek tragedy." --Malcolm Cowley --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .


Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 240 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin Classics; Édition : Open market e. (28 juin 2007)
  • Collection : PENG.POPULAR CL
  • Langue : Inconnu
  • ISBN-10: 014062354X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140623543
  • Dimensions du produit: 11,1 x 1,5 x 18,1 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.9 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (13 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 47.233 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Ju Do sur 16 septembre 2010
Format: Broché
C'est l'histoire d'une femme qui, pensant son mari mort, eut la faiblesse de s'abandonner à un autre. L'oeuvre commence après la naissance de leur enfant, à la condamnation publique de Hester Prynne. De cette intrigue somme toute simple ressort un roman complexe et touchant. L'identité de l'amant, le père de l'enfant d'Hester, se dessine par d'infimes touches au fil des chapitres, dans des tremblements de main et des gouttes de sueur visibles à qui sait les voir. Cette quête du "coupable", à la manière d'un récit policier, vient se mêler à l'histoire dominante du livre, celle de Hester, une des femmes les plus fortes de la littérature à mes yeux. Abominée par son village à la moralité puritaine calviniste très dure, forcée de porter en son sein la lettre qui signe son crime (A pour Adultère), elle commence une seconde vie à l'écart des autres, et pourtant parmi eux puisqu'elle refuse de quitter son village, pour se punir elle-même, mais aussi dans une sorte de fierté. Cette tension entre orgueil d'une femme amoureuse et remords insupportable de l'adultérine donne au texte un dynamisme exceptionnel, qui s'incarne dans la figure de la petite Pearl, l'enfant de la honte, petit lutin aux accents diaboliques qui court d'un bout à l'autre du roman, dans des robes toutes plus colorées les unes que les autres, dans une communauté grise. Si l'on doit s'identifier, avec qui le faire? Avec la coupable, ou son amant trop lâche pour se révéler? Avec l'esprit rigoureux et juste de cette communauté sans coeur?Lire la suite ›
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par July DUVERNEUIL sur 24 avril 2013
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Livre que j'avais à lire pour la fac, mais c'est une très bonne surprise, le livre est BIEN!!
Non vraiment c'est super! Lecture facile, anglais facile à comprendre, histoire prenante, suspens!! tout y est!
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Zaza sur 7 juillet 2014
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
Le premier grand roman américain doit être lu et relu. Une peinture de l'âme humaine comme il en existe peu et des personnages d'une épaisseur extraordinaire. Un très grand livre
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Par xinyi ZHENG sur 28 janvier 2013
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
C.est toujours difficile à lancer la première lecture d'un roman, en même temps il est pas intéressant pour tous, mais une fois on commence, on a envié de continuer!
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12 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Un client sur 12 novembre 2003
Format: Broché
j'ai beaucoup apprécié ce roman,non pas parce que je l'ai lu en anglais,ce qui entre nous ne fut pas trop difficile,j'ai donc dû louper quelques péripéties mais ce que j'ai retenu c'est que l'auteur critique la société américaine et PURITAINE d'il y a quelques siècles et ce d'une manière poignante et touchante.
j'ai aussi trouvé qu'il était allé très loin en donnant ce rôle au révérand dimmesdale.cela ébranle les croyances et le respect que nous pouvons avoir envers le clergé et les religieux mais il faut dire que hawthorne a bien réussi à se moquer des puritains et de ce fait,il les a provoqués en imaginant un tel personnage!j'ai aussi beaucoup apprécié la présence du supernaturel dans l oeuvre qui ajoute une petite note qu'on a du mal à oublier lorsque l'on pense au livre et qui lui donne un côté atemporel.
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Ophélie sur 29 septembre 2014
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
J'ai commandé un certain nombre de livres d'occasion dont celui ci, mais aussi "History of Canada" ou encore "A streetcar named desire", qui étaient vendus comme étant "en bon état". J'ai donc été relativement déçue de recevoir des livres à la couverture déchirée, aux pages qui menacent de s'enfuir à tout instant, et même de constater que dans l'un d'entre eux, les diverses annotations de son précédent propriétaire fleurissaient à chaque page. Déçue donc de m'apercevoir que nous n'avons pas la même notion de ce qu'est "un livre en bon état", pour moi ils sont dans un état tout juste "passable".
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Anonyme sur 19 septembre 2013
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Livre magnifique. Esthétiquement, il s'intègre à merveille dans ma bibliothèque. Les pages rappellent le vieux papier jaunit. Très agréable à lire.
Côté livraison, rien à redire: Amazon m'a toujours satisfait tant dans les delais que dans la qualité de l'emballage.
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