Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


Please join me here on Rose City Reader every Friday for Book Beginnings! Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Instagram, Twitter, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up. Find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

It is a little remarkable, that—though disinclined to talk overmuch of myself and my affairs at the fireside, and to my personal friends—an autobiographical impulse should twice in my life have taken possession of me, in addressing the public.

-- from the "Introductory" to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I believe his "first" autobiographical impulse was his earlier book, Twice Told Tales

A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.

-- from Chapter 1, "The Prison-Door."

I just finished rereading The Scarlet Letter as part of a classics read along on Instagram. I read and loved it in high school, but that read was over 40 years ago. It was, eventually, as entertaining and melodramatic as I remembered from when I was a teen ager. And the vivid themes of love, passion, religious zealotry, redemption, parenting, and revenge struck me fresh. What an excellent book!

But I had forgotten that the fist 50 pages or so are Hawthorne's semi-autobiographical "Introductory" before he even starts the story of Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter. Yes, it frames the story, but most of it is just Hawthorne describing his work at the Customs House and some of the eccentric people he met there. 


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From The Scarlet Letter:

The bright morning sun, therefore, shone on broad shoulders and well-developed busts, and on round and ruddy cheeks, that had ripened in the far-off island, and had hardly yet grown paler or thinner in the atmosphere of New England. There was, moreover, a boldness and rotundity of speech among these matrons, as most of them seemed to be, that would startle us at the present day, whether in respect to its purport or its volume of tone.

It took me a while to get used to the old-fashioned writing. But once I did, The Scarlet Letter raced right along. 


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