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              A picture for the book The Scarlet Letter

              The Scarlet Letter

              The short list of great American novels is often topped by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. This classic novel from the cannon of American Literature exemplifies the genre of Dark Romanticism. In this story, the consequences of Hester Prynne's adulterous affair with the reverend Arthur Dimmesdale are borne out as she gives birth to their child and is forced to wear a Scarlet Letter A, embroidered on her bosom, as a sign of her adultery. Hawthorne is at his best as he treats with the complexities of sin and redemption as the story progresses and carries Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale and Pearl toward their respective destinies. Illustration at right by Mary Hallock Foote, 1878. We offer a useful The Scarlet Letter Study Guide for students and teachers.

              The novel is classified under the Romantic genre and further classified as Dark Romanticism and Dystopian Fiction. I urge readers to study rather than skip over the two introductory chapters; "Preface to the Second Edition" and "The Custom-House." Those two works do not appear alongside the novel by accident, and I believe an appreciation of Hawthorne's experience at the Customs House is the key to a deeper understanding of the novel itself.

              The Scarlet Letter coverThis novel is a rare work of art. If you are reading it for a class, please cast aside any and all academic considerations. Don't let the assignment intrude on the experience. Enjoy the story as a reader instead of a student. You will have plenty of time for the classroom considerations, but you will probably only read the story once. So do it right. Good luck and most of all, enjoy it!

              The Scarlet Letter is a true masterpiece of American Literature and a must-read for every student of literature. Featured in our collection of 25 Great American Novels. Teachers and students may be interested in our Dark Romanticism - Study Guide and D. H. Lawrence's chapter on Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter from his book Studies in Classic American Literature.

              Hughes Merle, The Scarlet Letter, 1861

              Preface to the Second Edition

              The Custom-House

              I. The Prison-Door

              II. The Marketplace

              III. The Recognition

              IV. The Interview

              V. Hester at Her Needle

              VI. Pearl

              VII. The Governor's Hall

              VIII. The Elf-child and the Minister

              IX. The Leech

              X. The Leech and His Patients

              XI. The Interior of a Heart

              XII. The Minister's Vigil

              XIV. Hester and the Physician

              XIII. Another View of Hester

              XV. Hester and Pearl

              XVI. A Forest Walk

              XVII. The Pastor and His Parishioner

              XVIII. A Flood of Sunshine

              XIV. The Child at the Brook-Side

              XX. The Minister in a Maze

              XXI. The New England Holiday

              XXII. The Procession

              XXIII. The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter

              XXIV. The Conclusion

              Return to the Nathaniel Hawthorne library.