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Publisher's Summary

It is 1642 in the Puritan town of Boston. Hester Prynne has been found guilty of adultery and has born an illegitimate child. In lieu of being put to death, she is condemned to wear the scarlet letter "A" on her dress as a reminder of her shameful act.

Hester's husband had been lost at sea years earlier and was presumed dead, but now reappears in time to witness Hester's humiliation on the town scaffold. He becomes obsessed with finding the identity of the man who dishonored his wife. To do so, he assumes a false name, pretends to be a physician and forces Hester to keep his new identity secret. Meanwhile, Hester's lover, the beloved Reverend Dimmesdale, publicly pressures her to name the child's father, while secretly praying that she will not. Hester defiantly protects his identity and reputation, even when faced with losing Pearl, her daughter.

Hailed by Henry James as, "the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country", Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is a masterful portrayal of humanity's continuing struggle with sin, guilt, and pride.

Studying Hawthorne? Don't miss the SparkNotes Guide for The Scarlet Letter.
© and (P)2002 Tantor Media, Inc. Originally published 1850.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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  • Overall

Hasts and Thous

An amazing early American novel. I have never read before. I actually can't wait to read again. Stongly recommend. It was so good that I wanted to know someone who had just read it so we could talk about it! The reader was very good. Her voice was VERY versatile. The only drawback is with all "hasts and thous" you REALLY have to pay attention to every word...not a good "drivng" book.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A fine reading

Shelly Frasier does fine: clear diction and slow pace, which are appropriate for more challenging prose. But why so many complaints about Hawthorne's language? "Thees and thous"? He was writing in the 1840s, not the 1600s (the era of the fiction, which he emulates in his characters' speech), so it's not that far from our own era. Or is this nation now only capable of reading TV GUIDE listings for the next JERSEY SHORE?

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Not bad...

Which character – as performed by Shelly Frasier – was your favorite?

Tie. Reverand Dimmesdal and Pearl were my favorites.

If you could rename The Scarlet Letter, what would you call it?

"Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the word 'tremulous' about 800 times."

Any additional comments?

Good reading of a classic. Unfortunately, since Hawthorne's prose wanders like a caffeine addled child, it can be hard to track what's going on at certain points in the narration.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 02-18-09

doesn't hold up to other period classics

This was my first reading of Scarlet Letter. Canadians aren't as exposed to it in high school/college as Americans. I can see that it endures for its landmark importance in American literature, but I would not have enjoyed the novel for itself had I not just finished Susan Cheever's American Bloomsbury, with its biographical details of Hawthorne's life, especially his relationship with Margaret Fuller whom she postulates as at least partial inspiration for Hester's courage, strength and philosophy.

With Hawthorne's background in mind and several audiobooks on 19th centruy American history recently "read," I enjoyed the lengthy "customs house" sketch/intro more than the rest of the novel.

Eliot and Hardy wrote later in the century than Hawthorne, but not that much later, and they were so much more adept at re-creating earlier periods in their nation's history and mentality. I can't help but wonder if Elizabeth Gaskill read Scarlett Letter before she wrote Ruth, supposedly the first Engish lit novel to tackle the subject of "fallen woman" sympathetically - there seems to be more than one similar character.

Scarlett Letter (not Ruth!) is still worth reading (or re-reading as an adult). This edition was well priced, with acceptable narration for the price- Hawthorne's sentences must be hard work for any narrator.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Emory
  • Richmond, VA, United States
  • 04-28-17

Meh

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I know this is considered a classic, but I'm underwhelmed. Perhaps the most annoying thing about it is the heavy-handed symbolism. Honestly, Nathaniel, a meteor that lights up the sky forming a scarlet A? Doesn't that seem a little on-the-nose?

Would you listen to another book narrated by Shelly Frasier?

The narrator isn't bad, although she mispronounces words surprisingly often. This book does use a lot of uncommon words, but that's what dictionaries are for. Also, I found the decision to perform the dialogue, but not the rest of the text, in an English accent (or at least something like one) to be distracting, although I understand why the choice was made.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Would read again

The narrator talked very slowly so I had to speed it up, the story was great. Although very little actually happened.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Trent
  • PLEASANT GROVE, UT, United States
  • 02-09-11

OK

I had a hard time staying focused on the story. Narrator did not hold my attention, made it a struggle.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Brandy
  • Lowell, OH, United States
  • 04-12-12

Good but Exhausting

What would have made The Scarlet Letter better?

I enjoyed the story and the most of the characters, but since they all spoke in the old King's English, I found myself growing tired of continuously translating. I listened to this book in an audio version, so by the time I translated one part, the narrator was already on another. <br/><br/>I did get enough out of this story to feel sorrow for Hester as she was treated poorly and ridiculed for having a baby outside of wedlock in which she refused to confess who the father was. I was able to accurately predict who the father was about halfway through the story and find the father's confession to the old-fashioned New Englanders a sad moment. I was hoping once he confessed that there would finally be peace for him and for Hester and a state of normalcy for little Pearl.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Lori
  • LIVONIA, MI, United States
  • 07-10-13

Difficult to enjoy

What disappointed you about The Scarlet Letter?

The accent was difficult to follow, as well as the old English style speaking.

What was most disappointing about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story?

The story was too slow to start.<br/>

What didn’t you like about Shelly Frasier’s performance?

She spoke well, I didn't like the old style.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not that I noticed.

Any additional comments?

Sorry I chose it.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Padden
  • mission, BC, Canada
  • 10-21-06

The Scarlet Letter

I read the unabridged version of Hawthorn's book and I believe that had I read the abridged version my rating would have been much higher.

The first 1/4 of the book was very boring and not even related to the story to be told, or perhaps I missed the point.

I knew the book would be a tragedy and it met my expectations.

I am not certain but I think I just spelled the author's name incorrectly. I apologize if I did.

3 of 15 people found this review helpful