The Scarlet Letter is generally considered to be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece. Set in 17th century Boston, it follows the plight of Hester Prynne, a young woman who bears a child out of wedlock, refuses to name the father, and is condemned to wear a scarlet ‘A’ for the rest of her life. With The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne reaches back to America’s Puritan roots to probe themes of lust, sin, guilt and redemption. This Essential Classics edition includes a new introduction by Professor Vivian Heller, Ph.D. in literature and modern studies from Yale University. Born in 1804, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote at the forefront of dark romanticism. His renderings of colonial America reflect the strictures of New England Puritanism and give voice to characters who try to extricate themselves from social conventions. Vivian Heller received her Ph.D. in English Literature and Modern Studies from Yale University. She is author of Joyce, Decadence, and Emancipation(University of Illinois Press) and of The City Beneath Us (W.W. Norton & Company), a history of the building of the New York City subway system. She is an associate at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies and is the writing tutor for the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. She is also a long-standing member of the non-fiction committee of the PEN Prison-Writing Committee, which awards prizes to inmates from across the country. Essential Classics publishes the most crucial literary works throughout history, with a unique introduction to each, making them the perfect treasure for any reader’s shelf.
The Scarlet Letter is a work of historical fiction by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850.Set in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony during the years 1642 to 1649, the novel tells the story of Hester Prynne who conceives a daughter through an affair and then struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. The book explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.
The story The Scarlet Letter revolves around a woman named Hester who has committed adultery. Consequently, she is subjected to punishment according to Bible rules which were strictly followed then. Hester is condemned for life and is forced to wear a scarlet symbol as a punishment for her sin....
"The Scarlet Letter has proved our most enduring classic," writes Sacvan Bercovitch, "because it is the liberal example par excellence of art as ideological mimesis. To understand the office of the A is to see how culture empowers symbolic form, including forms of dissent, and how symbols participate in the dynamics of culture, including the dynamics of constraint." With an approach that both reflects and contests developments in literary studies, Bercovitch explores these connections from two perspectives: first, he examines a historical reading of the novel’s unities; and then, a rhetorical analysis of key mid-nineteenth-century issues, at home and abroad. In order to highlight the relation between rhetoric and history, he focuses on the point at which the scarlet letter does its office at last, the moment when Hester decides to come home to America. In The Office of "The Scarlet Letter," Bercovitch argues that the process by which the United States usurped "America" for itself, symbolically, is also the process by which liberalism established political and economic dominance. In the course of his study, he offers sustained discussions of Hawthorne’s irony and ambiguity, of aesthetic and social strategies of cohesion, and of the conundrums of liberal dissent. Winner of the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowe prize, The Office of "The Scarlet Letter" provides a theoretical redefinition of the function of symbolism in culture and an exemplary literary-ideological reading of a major text.