Reviewing the Classics #2: The Scarlet Letter

As I said last time, reading more classics and reviewing more books has led me to create this new series, in which I review some of the great “literary classics” which are largely accepted as having “created literature” – but aren’t necessarily that “great” to read… This time: Reviewing the classics: The Scarlet Letter.

Now, as far as great classics go – this one is big – and yet, guess what – not actually all that great

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The difficulty of reading this

First off, I have to admit: the first time I had to struggle my way through The Scarlet Letter, it was set reading for my class on American Literature, I didn’t technically have enough time to get it done and approximately zero want to read it – and yet, somehow, I did get it done, in time for class, and I felt very proud of myself…

Why proud?

Because this book may just be one of the most painstakingly-lets-get-as-many-words-as-we-can-in-here books I’d ever had the displeasure of reading.

It’s not that the story is that horrible – it really isn’t, I already realised that the first time I read it, and it was brought to the front again very clearly when I reread it these past couple of days. It’s just that Hawthorne, the author, seemed to take such horribly long detours in actually getting to the story that it just made it really hard to actually enjoy the story.

Of course, that was my first read – do I still think so after having reread it?

Reading experience

Well, partially….

First of all, I’ve since seen the film Easy A, which was based on this book, and which actually allowed me to enjoy the (let us call it “adapted”) story without having to struggle my way to the never-ending-turn-of-phrases.
And, of course, while enjoying beauties such as this:

That being said, even knowing what the story was about and kind of imagining Emma Stone as the main character, Hester Prynne, the language is kind of a big hurdle to get over…

However, once you have actually gotten over it? The story starts to speak for itself more and more – and once you can get to a point where it does that, the story pulls you through.

Even though the characters are very overtly given to carry an ideological message, even though the puritan values are so far away from those of my life, the characters’ thoughts, doubts and feelings make this story – more than anything – one about people.

So, yes, read this story – but feel free to take your time, be prepared to struggle your way through it, and feel like it’s just not worth the time and effort it’s taking. Because once you are done, it will have been worth it.

After having read this book the first time, I gave it 2 stars out of 5 – having come back to it now, though, I bumped it up to 3 stars. It’s not a book which really touched me all that much, nor is it one I would like to read again – but all in all, the book was sufficiently pleasant, and I don’t mind having read it (or at least not as much as I did after the first time).