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The Scarlet Letter [Anglais] [Broché]

Nathaniel Hawthorne , Thomas E. Connolly , Nina Baym
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Description de l'ouvrage

31 décembre 2002

A stark and allegorical tale of adultery, guilt, and social repression in Puritan New England, The Scarlet Letter is a foundational work of American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne's exploration of the dichotomy between the public and private self, internal passion and external convention, gives us the unforgettable Hester Prynne, who discovers strength in the face of ostracism and emerges as a heroine ahead of her time.

 


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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

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... --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: 272 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin Classics; Édition : Revised (31 décembre 2002)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0142437263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437261
  • Dimensions du produit: 5,1 x 7,8 x 0,7 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
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It is a little remarkable, that-though disinclined to talk overmuch of myself and my affairs at the fireside, and to my personal friends-an autobiographical impulse should twice in my life have taken possession of me, in addressing the public. Lire la première page
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5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Un classique de long en large 16 septembre 2010
Par Ju Do
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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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Super 28 janvier 2013
Format:Broché|Achat authentifié par Amazon
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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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  744 commentaires
150 internautes sur 172 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Good read, but hard to navigate ebook 6 novembre 2009
Par Srinivas Chetty - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat authentifié par Amazon
I have long wanted to read this book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was one of the first books I downloaded when I got my kindle 2. The character portrayals are superb. It analyses the thoughts, motivations, strengths and weaknesses of the four major characters in the story - Hester Prynn, the vengeful doctor, the hapless minister and Hester's vivacious and elf-like daughter Pearl. The description of the little girl and how she copes with being ostracized with her mother by a rigid puritanical society, is especially moving. While there are some descriptions of nature that are quite vivid, most of the text goes into developing these four characters and is a fascinating psychological study, though at times it's little slow.

Overall, a well-crafted story and a good read.

The book though is hard to navigate on the kindle because it has no active table of contents. I therefore would not purchase this version at regular price. Luckily, it's free!
196 internautes sur 236 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "The Scarlet Letter" 6 septembre 2000
Par D. Bass - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
Like many reviewers here, I was "forced" to read this book for my English Composition class. However, unlike many reviewers here, I have a much different view of the story. As some people have said before, Hawthorne's book takes a good deal of concentration, effort, and strength to understand. Not only to understand, but to finish. The story can drag sometimes, it is true, and Hawthorne's style of writing occasionally leaves something to be desired (I don't think I've ever seen that many commas, 15 letter words, or page long paragraphs before), but we simply must look past these minor issues. Overall, the plot is highly creative and intense, despite the writing.\
Ok, ok, I agree that the first chapter, "The Custom-House", was pretty bad. In fact, it was so bad and boring that I drifted off to sleep several times while reading it! The first chapter has little relevancy with the story, so, unless you have to, I would suggest skipping that part of the text. The rest is exceptionally good, and the quality of the plot cannot be overlooked. My advice is to just lay off the first chapter; that way you'll be able to enjoy the rest of the book without difficulty.
The story itself deals with sin and adultery, a subject that isn't very popular right now. Hawthorne does an excellent job of telling us about this, but he leaves the reader with many questions floating around in his mind at the conclusion. At the end of the story you're not 100% sure if Hawthorne was condemning the Puritan society, or if he was commending it. He leaves that for the reader to figure out, which is a thing authors seldom do. That's a major reason I believe this work is so unique and timeless.
The story involves a women named Hester Prynne, living in the New World in the late 17th century. She has committed adultery with someone unknown, and, since the Puritan society considered the Bible to be their ultimate source of law, the punishment was quite severe for such an act. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet "A" (for adultery) on her attire at all times, as a sign to everyone that she has sinned deeply. And so she must carry out the rest of her life this way. That's the major gist of the plot, although there's much more. I won't give it anyway, though, you'll have to read the book to find out.
Let's face it: at some time or another we all are going to probably have to read this book, voluntarily or involuntarily. Shouldn't we try to make the best of it? Read it for its enjoyment, anything else would be missing the point.
96 internautes sur 118 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Intriguing and Creative 15 décembre 2008
Par C. Chetty - Publié sur Amazon.com
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, takes place in the 1600s in Boston, which was a Puritan community at that time. The Puritans had extremely strict moral codes, and adultery, a subject matter in this novel, was deemed by the Puritans in the same way that felonies today are regarded. The novel's plot is directed by the Puritans' reactions to such behavior.

Nearly all classic novels get praised for character "development." However, the Scarlet Letter is the only novel I have read so far that, in my opinion, truly demonstrates development of characters. All other novels I have read have "exploration" of characters, but not actual development. Development of characters involves portraying the changes in a person's personality as a result of conflict.

In my opinion, the most impressive aspect of the Scarlet Letter is the ingenious connection between the novel's message and character development. In the Scarlet Letter, a single incident of adultery has unforeseen consequences that affect four people. How each character responds to the situation determines his or her physical and mental outcome in the story. The core message of the novel is that hiding one's sins causes more anguish than revealing one's sins.

The character development is superb, but the novel does not seem to use the developed characters to influence the plot. The subject of adultery was a creative element to develop characters, but I wish that the author had introduced a different conflict toward the end of the novel to show how the 3D characters would have reacted to the change in subject matter. I personally think that varying the subject matter and conflict would have made the message even more convincing; however, the novel is written with a confident call to action, which is the MOST important aspect of any work of fiction.

We live in a world in which immorality is everywhere, so a novel in which nothing inappropriate happens would be a pointless novel. Novels must address societies' immorality without sacrificing decency. Therefore, I commend The Scarlet Letter for referencing sexually immoral subject matter, without being a "sexual" book. This represents brilliance and should be observed by all writers of fiction.

Many readers have complained that The Scarlet Letter is irrelevant to today's society. To some extent, I agree. However, the greatest novels written today will be irrelevant to society two hundred years into the future. Therefore, there is no justification for criticizing writers simply because their masterpieces will someday seem irrelevant. As time progresses, scenery changes, climates change, countries split up or join together, governments change, laws change, etiquette changes, etc. However, the elements of human personalities do not change with time. It is for this reason that I constantly emphasize the importance of characters. The Scarlet Letter's characters' personalities are thoroughly developed and distinctive, so they exist throughout today's world, as well as tomorrow's world.
27 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Sin, Redemption 11 juin 2008
Par fra7299 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I think the many readers who were forced to partake of this classic were angry at their English teacher for making them read a book so wordy, detailed, and archaic in language. Many of the reviewers' complaints are about the author's style, which is definitely an acquired taste. Hawthorne doesn't merely give you a scene; he tries to tell you what time it is, how and why it is happening, and what each character is thinking as they enter the room. In this way, this can be a turn off to a leisurely reader; it may even be a turn off to an avid reader. The bottom line is that The Scarlet Letter, maybe more so than any other classic, is definitely a matter of style. I tend to admire the book because I can over look some of Hawthorne's unorthodox styles and look for a deeper meaning; if you happen to feel this way, great, if not, then maybe it just wasn't your kind of book.

The main subject in The Scarlet Letter is sin--but not only the sin of adultery (Hester and Dimmesdale). There is also the sin of jealousy and revenge (Chillingworth) as well as the sin of hypocrisy and gossip (Puritan community). Hawthorne's opinion of the hypocrisy of the Puritans seems to be illustrated in the opening scene with Hester coming out of the prison door we hear the Puritan women making besmirching comments about Hester, and one even wanting death for Hester because of her sin--this reaction from a do-good community! The main crux of the story though, as alluded to, is about Hester and Dimmesdale's sin of adultery, and, more importantly, how each of the two protagonists deal with their sin. While Hester's sin is spread out in the public eye of the New England community, and she is shamed publicly, Dimmesdale's sin is hidden, as no one except he, Hester and Chillingworth knows about it. In this way, there are two very paths that follow for Hester and the Reverend Dimmesdale. Hester, after her initial public humiliation and shame, begins life anew, and is able to find a hobby (that of a seamstress) to make ends meet, and her suffering seems to make her able to take on the challenges in life. She is able to deal with the questions and mischievousness from her daughter Pearl, and seems to implore Dimmesdale, who is obviously overcome with guilt, to forget their sin and live free. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, takes his sin very harshly, and not only feels he must punish himself for it, but physically becomes a shell of his former self. Still, Dimmesdale has a remarkable power to still give amazing sermons to the community, even with guilt. Chillingworth, Hester's ex-husband, enters the scene early in the book, and begins to "peck" away at Dimmesdale, knowing full-well that he can break him down mentally and physically with such a weight on his shoulders. During the scenes where Chillingworth is probing the mind of Dimmesdale, there seems to be a symbolic parallel between Chillingworth and the devil (there are several references to Chillingworth being the "black man" in the novel). Dimmesdale can't save himself physically, but he can spiritually. Hester emerges as the novel's hero, mainly because she sheds her former faults, and becomes a stronger person in the process.

The Scarlet Letter is definitely "heavy" reading. It might take you a few times to get through a few of the chapters. But, alas, persevere, and you may find it worth reading. And, take some advice: skip the introductory chapter "The Custom House" and just begin reading with "The Prison Door." I can give you a quick synopsis of the introduction: Hawthorne wrote a book about two people who sinned by committing adultery, and the Puritans weren't happy. As much as people say this book is outdated, it really isn't. I mean, public scandals are a part of our culture just as much as they were then. Hester Prynne is that public scandal, the story you hear on the news or other media outlets. Public infamy, as well as changing public perception, seems to never go out of style.

3  stars
26 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The first masterpiece of American literature 7 novembre 2006
Par Dennis Littrell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," might well be Nathaniel Hawthorne's theme in The Scarlet Letter. Certainly, by all community standards Hester Prynne's adultery is a sin. Worse yet Arthur Dimmesdale has triply sinned since he has had carnal knowledge of a member of his flock, and through a deep and abiding cowardice has failed to acknowledge his sin; and what is even worse yet, he allows Hester to bear the weight of public condemnation alone.

However the worse sin of all belongs to Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband who is not dead at all, but returned in disguise as a physician who has learned the efficacy of various medicinal concoctions from the Indians during his captivity. He pretends to befriend Dimmesdale in order to extract his long and torturous revenge. But it is Chillingworth's character itself more than anything that marks him as the worse of the sinners. He lives only for revenge and to give pain and suffering. He cares nothing for his wife and her child. He cares nothing for anyone, not even himself. He lives only to avenge.

Dimmesdale's sin is that of a weak character. In a sense Dimmesdale is Everyman, the non-heroic. We see the contrast between the proud bravery of Hester and the all too human weakness of Dimmesdale who cannot bring himself to confess his sin, but looks to her strength to do it for him. We see this in the first scaffold scene as he pleads along with Chillingworth for Hester to reveal the father's identity. "Reveal it yourself!" we want to say.

While some have seen Chillingworth as the devil incarnate--and indeed I suspect that was Hawthorne's intent--it might be closer to the truth to see him as the vengeful God of the Old Testament with his lust to mysterious power and his desire to see the sinful suffer. At any rate, Hawthorne's masterpiece--and it is a masterpiece, one of the pillars of American literature, to be ranked with such great works as Melville's Moby-Dick and Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--is about sin and the effect of sin; and this is only right since the central tenet of Christianity itself is sin and the forgiveness of sin.

By employing and investigating deeply three types of sin--Hester's from love and even something close to innocence; Dimmesdale's from lust, pride, neglect and cowardice; and Chillingworth's from hate--Hawthorne came up with a most felicitous device for examining the human soul.

The Scarlet Letter is regularly taught at the high school level, but surely this is a mistake. The novel is difficult and challenging even for honors students. The architectured sentences, with their points and counterpoints, their parallel construction, their old school rhetorical cadences are strange and even wondrous to the modern eye. It is a good practice for the teacher and for the student to read aloud Hawthorne's prose so as to grow accustomed to his words the way one must for Shakespeare. If this is done and the edifice of Christianity and especially the fatalism of the Puritan mind brought to bear, then with leisurely pace and a steady concentration, the terrible beauty of Hawthorne's novel might be made immediate.

Although the story itself is compelling, and the prose rich and poetic, the real strength of this great novel is in its characters. How true to life are all of them including even little Pearl who is defiant and willful in her beauty and her promise, so like a heroine-to-be of a modern novel. And how despicable and loathsome is this bent old man who embodies the very soul of the despised! And how attractive on a superficial level is this pretty young pastor whose actions are not the equal of his looks. And how strong and faithful and heroic is Hester who invites both envy and admiration, something like a flawed goddess of yore.

What stuck me when I first read this, and remains with me today, is that it is those who presume to punish sin who are the real sinners. Chillingworth's life is one devoid of human feeling, devoid of any real joy as he lies in the stone cold bed of hatred and revenge. And to a lesser extent so it is with Dimmesdale who cannot forgive himself, who secretly flagellates himself so that his life becomes a hell on earth. On the other hand there is Hester who finds forgiveness and love with good works and in the joy of her beautiful and precious Pearl and in her unstinting love for Dimmesdale and her hope and faith that a better life will come.

This is a deeply Christian novel although it is usually seen as a criticism of Christianity in the sense that the Christian community condemns the least of the sinners while the hypocrisy of its clergy is made manifest. Looking deeper we see that it is forgiveness of sin and the redemption that comes from good works that is exemplified. Hester knows the joy of life because she is a loving and giving person; and on another level she is forgiven because we the reader forgive her. How could we not? And most of the Puritan flock also forgave her since it came to be said that the scarlet "A" she wore upon her person stood not for "Adultery" but for "Able."

It is also good to realize that when Hawthorne published the novel in 1850 the scene of the story was nearly two hundred years removed. Thus Hawthorne looked back at Puritan America from the standpoint of a more secular society greatly influenced by Jeffersonian deism and the transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau. In some respects, Hawthorne's brilliant treatment of the ageless theme of sin, guilt and redemption was a serendipitous, even unconscious, artifact of his literary skill. No artist composes a masterpiece without some deep talent at work independent of his conscious efforts.
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