Plot summary (as if you don't already know)
Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne's concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided man.
Ugh. I really hate the Puritans.
My relationship with this book is . . . conflicted. On the one hand, my number one biggest pet peeve is hypocrisy and this book is chock-full-o-hypocrisy. On the other hand, Hawthorne’s point is reasonably well-taken and his writing is quite compelling.
Everyone knows the general story: Hester Prynne, married woman whose husband is no where in the vicinity turns up pregnant, thereby establishing that she has – gasp – committed the grievous sin of adultery. Not inconsequentially, so has her partner, but given that he lacks a burgeoning belly broadcasting his sin, no one is able to name and shame him since she won’t say who it is.
Who is it? Josh Duggar. They met on Ashley Madison.
Just kidding – it’s Reverend Dimmesdale, the town
moral and spiritual leader hypocrite. I fucking hate hypocrites. Sorry for the profanity (not really). It being the 1700’s, she’s shoved into the stockades and then has to wear a scarlet letter on her dress forever.
Anyway, Hester gives birth to Pearl, a fey, otherworldly child. She’s relegated to a cabin in the woods, like the local hedge witch, where she dispenses herbal remedies and comfort to the long suffering denizens of the worst place on earth to live, if you’re a woman.
Reverend Dimmesdale, on the other hand, deteriorates into insanity because, unlike Hester, whose sin is upon her breast for all to see, his sin is hidden in the deepest, darkest, festering recesses of his soul. I think I am maybe supposed to feel bad for him. I don’t, by the way. I’m waiting for Anonymous to hack his email and expose him for the asshole that he is, along with all of the other town leaders who are no doubt getting a little something-something on the side, but since they are men, no one cares.
I like Hester, though. She makes lemonade out of lemons, for sure. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t recommend this book – or Hawthorne at all, honestly – unless you, like me, decide to do some sort of a classics project, in which case, skip the beginning Custom House part because it is tedious and adds nothing whatsoever to the story.