The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Book Summary

An Apple Books Classic edition.

Hester Prynne lives in infamy. After committing adultery and bearing a child with a man whose name she refuses to divulge, the heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel is forced to wear a scarlet A to mark her shame for all to see.

Hawthorne’s American classic reflects the Puritan mindset of Boston in the 1600s, where public humiliation was acceptable punishment for a woman who bucked the norms. Never mind that Hester’s husband was widely believed to have died at sea and that Hester and her daughter are living a quiet life of good deeds in their little cottage outside town. Someone wants revenge-and will stop at nothing to get it.

The Scarlet Letter incorporates supernatural elements with historical fiction. It’s a dark tale of sin and redemption with an unforgettable heroine whose story continues to fascinate readers and inspire film adaptations.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Book Reviews

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- Never read it in school5 star

I can’t remember but I think that I was supposed to of read this in school. Never did. As an adult it piqued my curiosity. It was difficult getting started because the old English and the florid language with complex sentences (multiple commas) we’re difficult to comprehend. however, after a while I got the groove and could comprehend it pretty well. It was a riveting story. Loved it.

- The crazy people5 star

A very good book. A very good movie with Demi Moore in it.

- It’s SO HARD to me.3 star

I don’t need say “said he”. But, now okay.

- One of the best pieces of classic American literature.5 star

The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorite pieces of classic literature. Hawthorne is not the easiest read, but the book is beautifully written. I read it the first time some years ago as a junior in high school as part of the required reading for my English class, but I fully enjoyed the book and quickly understood why it’s considered a seminal work in American literature. Some of the other reviewers seem to be disappointed by the novel, so perhaps it’s worthwhile to explain what it is not: this is not an action-packed thriller, nor is it a cheesy romance novel for middle-aged women on their second divorce. In fact, nothing about this novel could be considered “light reading.” At the same time, however, this book is not, as some reviewers have suggested, merely a criticism of Puritans, who were many generations removed from its writing. Rather, it’s a very moving tale about hypocrisy, redemption, forgiveness, and honesty; a story of a young woman who thrives in spite of a punishment not commensurate with her crime and a priest who languishes in private as he reflects on his own hidden sins. So, take a few evenings to read this book. Its message is as relevant today in 2020 as it was in 1850.

- Bland3 star

Overall the message of the story was good, but I feel the author talked way to much about other topics

- Intriguing yet...3 star

Ok, the plot was interesting- and the farther away I get from when I read the book the more interesting the concept becomes but honestly it might have been the worst book I’ve ever read- then again I’ve been fairly picky about my reads up until this book and I read it only because I skipped a grade in LA and felt I was missing an important aspect of Highschool literature, but something about it felt very off.. like it wasn’t bad per say, but for some reason it just didn’t stick in my mind as interesting when I was reading it, I felt reluctant to turn the page and continue on with my venture into Hawthornes creation- Guys if you want literature on something very similar to Puritan control oppressing women I think Atwood’s the handmaids tale is far better written, although I just like things written by Atwood so I may be biased. Although then again this is free, so go for it, live your dream of saying “haha pleb, I’ve read the scarlet letter, haven’t you?!?..; why, it’s absolutely exquisite” twists fancy mustache, leans on cane. Lol, I’m just joking, though I would say that the concept is worth the read so do go for it, because this is similar to what women had to deal with back then and history is very important to understand the present and what it will lead to, so fly my birdies, spread your wings and fly

- A Moving and Relatable Story5 star

I was supposed to read this book in high school but didn’t pay much attention and couldn’t understand its moral relevance at the time. Almost thirty years later I took it up again and I understand it better. If I’d been able to internalize these lessons back in school, I might be in a better place. Certainly well written and engaging. Vivid depictions of Main characters’ lives and settings help transport me to their place. I rooted for some or hoped for the defeat of others throughout. There were even times I held my breath in anticipation of a tragic event. Between reading sessions, I wondered what I would do in their situations and in what ways I have lived or perhaps am living their stories today. Highly recommend this book.

- Hawthorne is a literary genius5 star

Nathaniel Hawthorne uses foreshadowing, symbolism, and his vast vocabulary to portray his novel. His ability to create an atmosphere for the reader is unmatched. The story is very emotion-based; Hawthorne allows the reader to share the guilt and remorse with the many characters. It is a classic and will continue to live on through the years.

- Give it a chance5 star

Even though there are so many negative reviews this is one of my favorite classics

- I just can’t1 star

I’m not sure if this is just my attention span, but I just kind of opened the book and just couldn’t. If you’re me, I would recommend Sherlock Holmes (It’s also free).

- 2 out of 5 stars.2 star

I read this book a few months ago. It was hard to understand and read. It was wordy, long, and complicated. I wouldn’t recommend this book. The story overall is good but the words and the long sentences often made it seem off topic. I tried reading it and by far it’s one of the first books I had trouble reading. I basically forced myself to read it and it wasn’t fun. 2/5 stars before it had a great storyline just the way it was written was very complicated.

- An enormous disappointment2 star

The only things that seem to have kept this book from entirely fading into obscurity are Hawthorne’s commentaries on the roles of women and religious fundamentalism. I am usually enraptured by the heavily descriptive prose of romantic era literature, but this novel seems to think that its readers have a collective IQ of 10; needlessly pounding the same symbols and analogies into their skulls. It brushes over any content with the slightest potential to be entertaining (Hester’s experiences in helping the less fortunate and living in relative solitude are only described; we don’t get any specific examples of them) in favor of droning on and on about concepts that it has already presented, such as the dynamic between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. I wish I could give this book a star and a half. It does not deserve two.

- A little tedious but worthwhile for literature examination4 star

This book is tedious to get through and I would not pick it up for a casual read but it earns its literary merit and is worth examining for that

- it's stained from my tears1 star

i had to read this in high school and it was the worst book i've ever read. no i don't care what real literature is. three-year-olds don't have that extensive of a vocabulary, even if they are puritan, mr hawthorne. bye

- A book about Hypocrisy.3 star

Interesting characters, deep plot, intriguing story.

- The Scarlet Letter5 star

So sad a story.

- The Scarlett Letter1 star

10/10 would not recommend.

- Wow5 star

Great book but i hate Pearl

- no1 star


- Read this for AP Literature5 star

Absolutely amazing. If you are a reader, you have to read this. Beautiful work & absolutely enlightening in terms of the nature of unavoidable human sin/penance/penitence.

- Unusualness c5 star

You don't want me

- Before you read this, don’t.1 star

I had to read this book for my advanced English class and I can honestly say it is the worst book I have ever read. The archaic writing style and the confusing sentence structure made it very difficult to comprehend. The vocabulary used and the way Hawthorne incorporated symbolism into almost all aspects of the book detracted from the main idea. Would not recommend.

- I hate this dumb book1 star

I bought this book thinking "hey, I could use a god read on the crapper". So I bought it. As soon as I opened this book poop could not stop flying out my crack.

- The Scarlet Letter5 star

It's lit.

- 👎1 star


- Dear Haters1 star

this book is so friggin gay

- Extremely boring do not read!1 star

If u have a decent life don't read

- Better than I thought!4 star

This book was assigned from my AP English class, so I thought it going to be really boring like the usual AP book, but this novel had a great plot and I loved Hester and Pearl. There were some parts that were slow and a little hard to read, but overall this book is timeless and I really enjoyed it.

- Gay1 star

Why does this exist?

- Kill me please1 star

The title explains it all

- Scarlet Letter1 star

This is one of the worst books I read because it was very wordy and it used unfamiliar and large words when shorter words and phrases would have worked. Also, the author did not know how to use paragraphs. Many paragraphs were very large. It was hard to understand the author as a result. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

- In your face symbolism5 star

There's a reason schools use this book so much. Its symbolism is so in your face it almost hurts. The story really isn't very good.

- The Scarlet Letter5 star

This book has a lot of symbolism, as another review said, but that does not bother much. Overall, this book is based on older America and it has old English, so it may be harder to understand the book. This part is not about the book, but about most of the other reviews here. Some people say it's bad with one star. They never seem to say WHY it is "bad".

- Fabulous literature5 star

This book stands the test of time as great literature. I highly recommend it!

- The Scarlet Letter5 star

How dare I write a review of so deep a sharing of Nathaniel Hawthorne"s pen but that any chance reader of this ponderous novel that would traverse its primal thickets and harrow through its fields should take it to heart.

- The Scarlet Letter was bad.1 star

It did not catch my interest in the slightest. It was awful. I would never read it again even if you paid me.

- A Good ORIGINAL Classic5 star

Love this Book. Recommend for all ages 10 or older.

- Good5 star


- welp2 star

maybe if I knew what I was reading this would've been good maybe????

- Brilliant and just spectacular5 star

The author’s descriptive details were so authentic that you would almost believe what it says in the book.

- Gorgeous girl3 star

I think this book is a little bit weird but very interesting and I like it so I guess it's a good book and why is it on her breast that is so weird

- Error5 star

Chapter 13, 3rd paragraph, last sentence has an error. "They said that it meant ABLE" not "they said that it meant ABEL". Please fix for that is an important line in his novel. Thank you! Awesome book!

- The scarlet letter2 star

I hate this Love me

- Review1 star


- Why1 star

I read this a little while ago. Decent plot line? I guess. The problem is, chapters 3-24 are completely pointless. It just drags on forever. I have never met a single English teacher who enjoyed it.

- No1 star

It was a weird book to read for school.It was all extremely unlikable.

- Scarlet Letter1 star

Just don't

- Good Read!!!5 star

Didn't want the book to be over when it was finished! Good to read out loud

- The Scarlet Letter3 star

This would be a great book if an editor had the nerve to tell Hawthorne to cut all the extraneous words. I love the story of sin and redemption and the idea that any sin can be redeemed by atonement for sin.

- Awesome5 star

This was a great app to help me get through the scarlet letter she reads with such great emotion and differentiates voices between characters, i recommend it

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StephKuAus - Solace and inspiration5 star

Any woman struggling through a tumultuous period should take the time to read this book. The heroine, Hester Prynne, provides solace and inspiration to any and all who are face with a burden to carry. I simply loved this book.

morphinecat73 - The Scarlet Letter5 star

A story that is able to find the soul and leave its own impression there.

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elliedovah - Ehhh3 star

Too many big words that no one can pronounce haha it was an okay book.

PERoss13 - No doubt it stands as a classic5 star

Don't let the ponderous introduction put you off, The Scarlet Letter reads as a crafted story of the powers of sin, guilt, love and hate. Hawthorne flows through majestic, awful, spell-bound and moribund details, introducing us to Puritan New England and the deep effects of hidden sin.

Dillymushroom bag - HTR5 star

It totally draws the reader in as I said for the title was hook the reader it draws the reader in and makes them hooked.

Reviewlewis - 0k2 star


Docmonkey13068t - Scarlet Letter5 star

Amazing book

Notters - Slow...but some good parts3 star

This book could be cut down by about 300 pages. I know Hawthorne is a Romantic, so I guess it's to be expected that his prose is a bit florid and he waxes poetic about stuff I don't care about. His musings on the stigma of crime, the lingering effects of punishment and guilt were the main attraction for me, as I am a law student.

Hiroseki - The Scarlet Letter5 star

Always a great read I read this in Ninth grade and again in tenth grade. This is the third time I've read the book and I will never tire of the story and the development of the characters throughout the novel. My favorite Character(s) by far are Pearl and her mother Hester. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good historic read.

Chuckles1899 - Good book!4 star

A little slow and boring in the beginning, but the closer you get to the end, the better it becomes, then the ending is great! This book definitely makes you think!

Zifre - Good book.5 star

It's not an easy read, but if you can get through it, it is a good story. Just don't read it if you're looking for something fast-paced.

Jesus_Lily - Scarlet Letter5 star

Beautiful story of passion, love, hate, and tragedy.

Jessica Kost - Pretty good5 star

It's a pretty hard book to understand but I really like the way Hawthorne showed what hate can do to a person it will kill you!

Dmoortgat - This book is gay1 star

Hawthorne u turned into a adult film version....this is not how I expected we had acting parts with girls on top of guys and that is not appropriate ever. Chillingsworth is a fricken creeper and petaphile... And dimmesdale is an idiot and a loser who can't stick up for himself. Smh Hawthorne smh!

clopezcoronado - Great Book5 star

Read this for a class project, great book!

Molisani89 - The A5 star

This book is very good !

Mark Batson - So boring1 star

Read something modern. This book is sucky and boring.

Banna1295 - The Scarlet Letter is great!5 star

It is an awesome read! It depicts Puritan life nicely.

Matthewfh - Great read!!5 star

I read this in high school and I loved it. It's free in the bookstore, so I recommend this book to anyone wanted a good one! Time to read it again!

Freelyuniqe - Not my3 star

Cup of tea . I generally didn't like this book, but it was not a bad concept.

Johncarllos - Slow1 star

Boring, absurd stream on consciousness sections, hyper-symbolism detracts from simply reading. Painful at times.

Ihopethisnicknameisnt taken - Free!4 star

Really saved me some money! Reading this book for my english honors class! It's great so far!

erm.emurphy - Great Book5 star

A wonderful read, full of ideas that will leave you pondering for hours.

Ceyagago - Sad but intriguing story4 star

It was long yet the actual events were not that many. And very sad. I am not a book person, this is my 1st book since 5 or 8years of not reading one out of pleasure. I think it was a book that will try to teach you a lesson. I won't read it again. But will talk about it w joy :)

Bobbybob32134282 - Brilliant5 star

You can easily lose yourself reading this book for hours once you get past the first few chapters, and has an ending so magnificent that it would encourage you to write a good review about it, and it is free, and my dog is barking in her sleep. I highly recommend it.

Zac.R.R. - Very good book!4 star

Anyone who enjoys the classics and good writing will like this book. It is very moving for those who can discern the deeper meanings. A bit overly descriptive, but then again you have to look at the time it was written. Over all a very good book!

Emily158 - School Reading-- YUCKK!1 star

The book was awful! Especially being made to read it.. It's so hard to understand. I found myself looking up words that weren't even in the dictionary. It's also very hard to follow. It doesn't introduce each character very clearly, therefore it's confusing. Did not like it at all! No stars!

Watertacox - Title1 star

Too much symbolism, almost like getting hit over the head with it. Not worth the time it took to read. I recommend Jane eeyre instead

Micfilson - Scarlet letter3 star

I liked this book. Though some parts seemed sketchy. I didn't have the feeling that was intended. This book is terrible. I give it a 5out of 5.

Solar prince - Reedi_nalone14 star

This book was actually quite interesting. It may not be one of the best books I have read, but overall I was satisfied with the book. Ending is terrible though.

Lauren Butler - Horrible Book1 star

Worst book I've read I a while. Not worth the time and energy.

:)))))))):DDDDDD - Great story!5 star

Actually reading this book was absolute torture but while I was reading the conclusion I realized it was actually a great story.

rahul sharma - Good4 star

A great book!

Cayman Cardiff - Scarlet5 star

A very good and intuitive read! All about sin and punishment, along with high guilt and revenge! A readers book!

izi_sbk - There's a reason it's a classic.5 star

What a great writer. What a fantastic story. The conclusion is a tad melodramatic, but the prose of the ending is strikingly beautiful. Slow start, but the book soon envelops you. Worth the time.

evanaddisonpayne - ehhhh1 star


rebelangel27 - The Scarlet Letter5 star

I just read this book for my AP American History class. I thought it was going to be just another boring, archaic book but I ended up loving it! It starts off a bit slow in the beginning but it soon completely draws you in. I read this in two days (and I had ton of homework during that time)! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in a good read.

Quinn person - A4 star

Great book

Tommy 2712 - It's free5 star

Thx for being free ... I can read it on the train ... And my class

Annalouise1028 - Sensational!4 star

Very well written book. I think it deserves an award. I love it!

Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter Comments

About Nathaniel Hawthorne Wiki

Nathaniel Hawthorne (July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was an American novelist, dark romantic, and short story writer. His works often focus on history, morality, and religion. He was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, the only judge from the Salem witch trials who never repented his involvement. He entered Bowdoin College in 1821, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1824, and graduated in 1825. He published his first work in 1828, the novel Fanshawe; he later tried to suppress it, feeling that it was not equal to the standard of his later work. He published several short stories in periodicals,...

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