December 14, 2010

The Scarlet Letter: A Review

Nathanial Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter is all about secrets. We all have them. Some of them have been eating away at us since we were children. Some of them are kept from the person laying next to us. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm keeping a number of secrets from myself right now. A really big secret will destroy you. It'll make you lose weight or gain it. They'll make you bald or gray. A really big secret will make you sure you're doomed to hell. Some secrets can even kill.

I used to refuse to tell anyone about myself or my thoughts. I was a pretty tightly sealed ball of information as I moved through my early years. Eventually, I made a couple of close friends that make it a habit of telling absolutely everything about themselves to absolutely everyone. It is like they are completely incapable of keeping a secret. Over the years they've rubbed off on me a bit. It's incredibly liberating to confess the awful and embarrassing things you've done over the course of your life to someone else.

This book deals with the haunting nature of big secrets better than any I've ever read. Everything is below the surface in the small New England town of long ago. Each of the three main characters has a secret that is killing them and good luck trying to get them to confess. The need to confess is a basic human need. The Catholics actually have it right I think. This book is filled with tortured souls and it shows you that sometimes the dishonor that confessing your sins brings is far superior to having a heavy conscience for the rest of your life.

This book isn't necessarily the easiest to read but it is a really good book. Something about the language and the cadence made it tough for me to read more than a chapter or so per sitting but I'm glad I toughed it out. The three main characters were all complex and intriguing. Little Pearl was probably the most interesting child I've ever seen written. If you haven't read this before I suggest giving it a try. I guarantee you'll learn something about your own inner demons.


  1. I remember reading this in 10th grade and really enjoying it. It wasn't like all the other boring books forced upon us. I liked that there was the mystery of who Pearl's father was & the good girl settler wasn't so good. I'm glad you liked it!! =)

    Hey btw I loved your comment yesterday about that scene in Scott Pilgrim about it being so sad that it was the best guy she ever dated. I was going to write a post soon about that line and I will make sure to link back to your blog about you also pointing it out! Stay warm! ttyl! =)

    Melanie's Randomness

  2. I'm definitely adding this to my list of classics that I'm working my way through. Thanks, Chris.

  3. Okay, now I definitely want to read this book. I saw the awful Demi Moore movie a while ago and it appalled me so much, I stayed away from the book. I know, terrible. Your review definitley changed my mind!

  4. I agree - it's not easy but it is a worthy read.

  5. It is very disconcerting watching the self-destruction in this book, but like you said, worth the read.

    I know someone who kept a secret like that . . . from childhood. Had he shared, his whole life would be different. I agree, confession is important.

  6. Oh, wow. So, basically what I got from this is that if you're really fat or really thin or really bald, you're harboring a dirty little secret.

    That's what my blogbud Christopher has taught me...and I believe every word you say. I shall view people differently from now on.

  7. Oh, I wish I had the strength to face my own inner demons, like you Chris. I love your review, very enlightening, makes me want to read it. I just might, once exams are done mushing my brain.

    "This book is filled with tortured souls and it shows you that sometimes the dishonour that confessing your sins brings is far superior to having a heavy conscience for the rest of your life."

    You couldn't have put it any better. Love this. The Catholics might indeed be right. It is liberating and healing in many ways. To be able to breathe easy again, must be so wonderful, that feeling of great relief, beautiful. :)

  8. Keeping secrets sucks. On the one hand, it's kind of cool when someone trust you with a secret, but then after they tell you, it's no fun to keep it.

  9. Keeping secrets is slightly fun but not knowing if you can trust anyone with them sucks.

  10. I loved this book. It was sad, but it was good.

    I am the type of person who does not really let my secrets out. I only share things about myself with, pretty much only one person, and even then it is a little hard.


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