Bryn’s Books: “The Scarlet Letter”


Credit: Elizabeth Zhong

In the latest installment of “Bryn’s Books,” sophomore guest writer Bryn Leonard reviews “Just Mercy” and details the most prominent factors of the novel.

I am the type of person who always finishes a book, no matter what. It is very uncommon when I feel as if I can’t complete a book, and this was one of those times. There were instances where I highly debated giving up on the story because I found it monotonous and hard to understand. I decided to keep reading in order to give this book a negative review since my book reviews have been mostly positive so far.

It is the middle of the 17th century in Puritan Massachusetts. Hester Prynne is a young woman punished by her community for adultery after conceiving and giving birth to an “illegitimate” child named Pearl while her husband was in Europe. The Puritan society that Hester lives in shuns and forces her to wear on her chest a scarlet letter “A” made out of fabric for the rest of her life. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, discovers Hester’s affair when he returns to Massachusetts and seeks revenge on Hester’s secret lover.

Written in 1850, “The Scarlet Letter” is a historical fiction and romance novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne focuses on the power of guilt, the regrets that Hester and her secret lover experience, and how the former notions reflect the Puritan ideologies of the 17th century. Hester is publicly shamed and has to live with her wrongdoing, while her secret lover does not take public responsibility and feels immense guilt for Hester’s ignominy.

While the story is fictional, it is based on rumors Hawthorne learned about during his time working at a custom house (a government building where workers check papers for goods entering or leaving the country and making sure taxes were paid). Hawthorne gathered these rumors he heard and fabricated the story of “The Scarlet Letter.” The novel starts with an extremely long introduction titled “The Custom House,” and I couldn’t comprehend Hawthorne’s main point about his experiences at the custom-house. Overall, the introduction put me in a negative mindset for the latter part of the story.

I usually enjoy reading classics, but Hawthorne’s writing style was difficult to comprehend, and the plot was excruciatingly tedious: the sentences were too long, and the beginning of the sentence sometimes did not correlate with the sentence’s ending. The objects in the story were also overly described to the point that the sentence would lose its original meaning. This novel took me months to read. I had to keep taking breaks since I quickly lost interest in the plot. I was immediately able to figure out who Hester’s lover was, which made the story lose its element of mystery. The story’s development didn’t progress much, and the ending was very predictable.

The only redeeming quality was the ending, which I slightly enjoyed because it was satisfying and had a pleasant resolution to the story. Still, the end was not worth the torture of reading the book. I don’t recommend this story to other readers. However, I acknowledge that everyone has different tastes and appreciation for stories, so I still encourage others to give this story a try if the plot sounds interesting to them.

Bryn’s rating: 1.5/5