The Scarlet Letter Review ⭐

Nathaniel Hawthorne cuts his readership an enjoyable slice of the rich piece of American history through his model book, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ where he explores the cultures and traditions of a puritan revolaution that controlled the Commonwealth of Massachusetts nearly four hundred years ago.

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne

In ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hawthorne pays particular attention to the cultures and traditions of a dominant Puritanism practice and couldn’t help but question the rationale behind its heavily repressive demands from the people. No doubt the book is a bit unsuitable for the children’s bookshelf, but Hawthorne’s refined and courteous handling of some sensitive matters like adultery make the book even more appealing and approachable by a vast majority of his audience.

A Gripping Story that Hooks Reader’s Attention

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is one book that can excite the reader’s mind and grab their attention very quickly as soon as they get into the thick of things. However, you might have to wait through a longwinded prologue plus endure some below-par energy chapters to get to the important parts of the book. 

That notwithstanding, Hawthorne may well have proved himself the king of gothic writing with this shocking, pervasive, and mind-boggling storyline, which carries with it scenes of a helpless single mother being publicly paraded with her baby for her sin of adultery as she is forced to wear a dress that symbolizes her sin.

But that is not the only buzz in the book, as other scenes are gripping with suspense and dripping uncertainties throughout the book. Readers get to see scenes of certain characters like Mistress Hibbins who commune – or claim to commune – with the devil. 

There is the witch’s convention. There are conspiracies, lies, secret plans, and meetings at dark corners and brushes purported between Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale – the book’s three leading characters. When the story hits top gear, it’s hard not to get tied down or surrender all your attention to the thrills of the book’s plot. 

Well-Defined Roles for Specific Characters

Aside from the brilliance in storyline and plot, another praiseworthy aspect of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ is how he worked with unique characters – with well-defined roles.

Picking, building, and assigning roles to the book’s characters are some of the foundational blocks an author must get right if they want to have a meaningful final book, and a lack of these can sometimes reduce the quality of even the best stories. 

However, with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ the majority of the readers will find that majority of the characters are unique, trimmed, and stay relevant to their roles in the book. This is opposed to several poorly written books whose characters are unrefined, their roles vague, and tend to overshadow – in terms of numbers – the actual roles available to be assigned.

A True Definition of a Gothic Romance

There are only a few books that check all the right boxes of a classic gothic narrative, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is undoubtedly one of such books. Other classic books in this rank might include Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights,’ and Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein.’ 

These books, as is with Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ embody the qualities of true gothic fiction because they deal with dark, supernatural, horrific – and often slightly disturbing themes of people and places being haunted by ghosts, stories about witches and dark magic, or perhaps based on a certain preternatural phenomenon and occurrence.

Hawthorne’s use of daylight and nighttime in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is both scary and amazing at the same time. There is also impressive incorporation of nature into the different scenes to further portray a deeper precarious, gothic atmosphere.

The Story is Slow-Paced, and the Words Complex

One of the very few downsides to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is the fact that the author took too much time to get to the gripping part of the book – so if you are a first-time reader looking to pick this one up, patience is a virtue you must exercise. 

As per the book’s long-windedness, one notices an overly stretched prologue, followed by several less-than-interesting chapters – adding up to chapter ten. After this, the plot matures, and the full quality of a true gothic romance kicks in, and it’s all a joy a read from here on. 

Another aspect that doesn’t add up to the praise the book is getting involves a rather redundant and over implementation of unnecessarily hard words – including a few repetitions of the same words here and there. 

Even though this may not have a significant direct impact on the quality of the purpose of Hawthorne’s storyline, it is a clear distraction readers will come up against while seeking to enjoy the classic work. 

Less than Satisfactory Ending

Hawthorne does a fantastic work wrapping up ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ and it’s easy to see this given how he’s managed to help his characters live out all the important questions readers might want to ask of the book. However, in so doing, he sets off a loop that adds up to the book’s blonder.

This blonder is nothing but the fact that he now has to rush the book’s ending – horribly – in as little as pages of chapter 24 – the last chapter. The consequences of this are that he skips the interesting story of Pearl as she tours through Europe and marries into wealth; gives Chillingworth a less than appealing end, and fast forwards to several decades later to describe the death of the book’s protagonist, Hester Prynne.


What age grade is ‘The Scarlet Letter’ suitable for?

‘The Scarlet Letter’ is a book that includes adultery as one of its primary themes. However, the author walks through such a subject in a way that anyone from 12 years upward can read, understand, and not feel aggravated by the book. 

What historical timeline does ‘The Scarlet Letter’ portray?

Though published in the middle of the 19th century, the book goes two centuries back and focuses on the era of the puritan culture and legacy.

Where did Nathaniel Hawthorne get inspiration for ‘The Scarlet Letter’? 

Hawthorne’s family had a long-standing history of upholding the puritan laws, as his ancestors were some of the movement’s most prominent leaders. This history gripped Hawthorne’s fascination, so he sought to explore it.

The Scarlet Letter Review
  • Plot
  • Diction
  • Relevance
  • Character
  • Setting
  • Climax

The Scarlet Letter Review: Recapturing the Heights of America’s 1600’s Puritan Legacy

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ continues to prove how much of a historical relic it’s become through many generations. It is indeed a rich piece of history covering the apex of extreme puritan tradition – through the eye of young Hester Prynne, who is scapegoated and punished before the world for a moral crime. Hawthorne, through this book, once again reveals to us an important and emotional past of humanity’s cultural evolution.


  • Historically rich narrative
  • Helpful lessons for young people
  • Exposes the ills of society’s rulers


  • Explicit themes
  • Misogynistic in nature
  • Several human rights issues are in play
Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap