Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne's concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.
This book captures what it's like for Hester Prynne, an adultress living in a Puritan society, and how she deals with the social repercussions of her passionate action. The book gets pretty intense and full of meaning and symbols. It's a great book for anyone who loves symbolism and books full of negative capability.
Quick crash course here: negative capability is the ability of the author to write without right out saying what is actually happening. Basically, the author may say that there was a mark in the sky, but not tell you what it is. It is up to you to interpret what the mark is, or if there even is one. This may be frustrating to some readers who like to be told the story straight up, but I personally love it because I can fill in the blanks.
I think that's the main reason why this book gets a bad rap. That, and the fact that Hawthorne's writing style is filled with long, descriptive sentences and sometimes vague thoughts.
However, I think that writing style is perfect for this novel. I absolutely love all the themes running through it and it is just beautifully executed. It does take a lot of careful reading to pick up on all the symbolism and hidden messages, but once you get them all and piece together the entire picture, it is truly wonderful.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this classic and recommend everyone to read it at least once.