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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (270,552 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne Narrator: Kristen Underwood Publisher: Craig Black Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2010 ISBN: 9781455171354
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Hailed by Henry James as “the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter reaches to our nation’s historical and moral roots for the material of great tragedy. Set in an early New England colony, the novel shows the terrible impact of a single passionate act on the lives of three people: the fiery, tortured Reverend Dimmesdale; the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth; and the defiant Hester Prynne, who, unwilling to name her partner in adultery, is condemned to wear a scarlet “A” on the breast of her gown for the remainder of her life. She and her illegitimate daughter become outcasts, forced to live solitary lives—until Hester’s estranged husband arrives and stirs up trouble.

With The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne became the first American novelist to forge from our Puritan heritage a universal classic—a masterful exploration of humanity’s unending struggle with sin, guilt, and pride.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Nathaniel Hawthorne] recaptured, for his New England, the essence of Greek tragedy.”

    Malcolm Cowley

  • The Scarlet Letter isn’t a pleasant, pretty romance. It is a sort of parable, an earthly story with a hellish meaning.”

    D. H. Lawrence

  • “Considered a masterpiece of American literature and a classic moral study.”

    Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

  • “The finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country.”

    Henry James

  • combines the strength and substance of an oak with the subtle organization of a rose, and is great, not of malice aforethought, but inevitably. It goes to the root of the matter, and reaches some unconventional conclusions, which, however, would scarce be apprehended by one reader in twenty. For the external or literal significance of the story, though in strict correspondence with the spirit, conceals that spirit from the literal eye. The reader may choose his depth according to his inches but only a tall man will touch the bottom…very story may be viewed under two aspects: as the logical evolution of a conclusion from a premise, and as something colored and modified by the personal qualities of the author. If the latter have genius, his share in the product is comparable to nature's in a work of human art,—giving it everything except abstract form… A gloomy and energetic religious sect, pioneers in a virgin land, with the wolf and the Indian at their doors, but with memories of England in their hearts and English traditions and prejudices in their minds; weak in numbers, but strong in spirit; with no cultivation save that of the Bible and the sword; victims, moreover of a dark and bloody superstition,—such a people and scene give admirable relief and color to a tale of human frailty and sorrow.  Amidst such surroundings, then, the figure of a woman stands, with the scarlet letter on her bosom… But a writer who works with deep insight and truthful purpose can never be guilty of a lack of decency. Indecency is a creation, not of God or of nature, but of the indecent.whoever takes it for granted that indecency is necessarily involved in telling the story of an illicit passion has studied human nature and good literature to poor purpose.

    Atlantic (an excerpt from the review)

  • “A gloomy and energetic religious sect, pioneers in a virgin land…with memories of England in their hearts and English traditions and prejudices in their minds; weak in numbers, but strong in spirit; with no cultivation save that of the Bible and the sword…Such a people and scene give admirable relief and color to a tale of human frailty and sorrow.”

    Atlantic

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alexandra | 2/20/2014

    " Very much liked this; the matter of Pearl's father confused me at first, but once it was cleared up, I loved this book "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Larsen | 2/18/2014

    " Love the symbolism in this. I teach this with my 11th graders. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anthea Carson | 2/17/2014

    " I read this as assigned reading in high school, so my opinion of the book is cluttered with all the stupid analysis of the symbolism, the rose symbolizing the joy and the thorns representing the pain and blah blah. That would have ruined any other book, but this classic survived because... well... the same reason all classics survive. Because it's great, and because it deals with the human condition in an honest way. This book delves into the nature of hypocrisy, sexism and discrimination. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Makeda | 2/15/2014

    " This is a book that I read for a class. I've read it before, but like most books new things appear as you read them in different points of life. It has many layers of meaning and although I don't agree with certain things in the book it was a good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joelle Gallaway | 2/14/2014

    " The Scarlet Letter, overall, was a pretty good book. Nathaniel Hawthornes dark romatic style was slightly depressing. Although I did enjoy his detailed imagery throughout the novel, some of the words and sentence structers were difficult to comprehend. All in all, The Scarlet Letter had a very good story line and plot, however, it was a difficult read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Billy | 2/9/2014

    " Good book but the author is to wordy for me; one can skip several pages and Hawthorne would be still talking about the same thing. He has several good themes that I liked such as how revenge will corrupt you. His style is dark romantic and maybe if one likes romantic novels this would be a good book but I am really one for action and adventure so this book wasn't my favorite. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrew Rao | 2/8/2014

    " The Scarlet Letter in my opinion was a great book. Hawthorne committed his peice to be very dark and gloomy; yet romantic in ways the reader understands. The powerful imagery and complex vocab he incorporates throughout this work can easily be perceived by anyone reading. Although the many conflicts and themes can be hard to figure due to his dense explanations, this read was very enjoyable and kept me wanting more each chapter. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Chris Corrado | 1/27/2014

    " I thought the the book had a good message and an interesting writing style. However, i thought that the plot was a bit slow and dry at some points. It was also very heard to read and understand. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Keith Madsen | 1/26/2014

    " This superbly-written book shows us how life would be if the Westboro Baptist Church's of the world took over society. It reminds us of the importance of grace and forgiveness, both for ourselves and others, and suggests that the worst sins of the world are not our sexual sins, but rather hate and judgmentalism. It also reminds us of the importance of eliminating our facades and truly facing our "dark side," an act which Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale was unable to do. While Hester Prynne was forced into such a revelation through the birth of her out-of-wedlock child, she shows courage and depth in redeeming her life through caring for others. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kristin | 1/24/2014

    " Yes, I gave The Scarlet Letter a 2. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sophie-louise Truelove | 1/22/2014

    " Well written, with some thought-provoking sentences, but ultimately a long-winded book about religion, good and evil. Also, I found Nathaniel Hawthorne's male chauvinism highly unpalatable. The best part of his novel is the character, Pearl, the otherworldly child of Hester Prynne. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Katrina | 1/16/2014

    " I hated this book very much. Reading it in my English class was an awful experience "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caroline Cummings | 1/13/2014

    " Loved it! The trascendental writing was a bit tough to get through at times but the recurring themes about people and society give the reader so much to think about. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sierra Mccormick | 1/12/2014

    " I did not like this book...never again "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bao Thai | 1/2/2014

    " It makes me love sparknote so much... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marissa | 1/1/2014

    " Although the book had a great storyline and plot, it was a difficult read and became very time consuming with all of these symbols present. If you have plenty of time and knowledge about history I highly recommend reading this book; however, I would much rather watch the movie. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anny Borbon | 12/17/2013

    " great plot but old english "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Larsen | 12/7/2013

    " Love the symbolism in this. I teach this with my 11th graders. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maria Wheeler | 12/4/2013

    " Read this one in school. Love sucks! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 12/2/2013

    " required to read in high school but i fell in love with it in many ways i can relate. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Alina Mallworld | 11/15/2013

    " Hate. Only book I ever sparknoted in high school. For real I read all the others, even grapes of wrath... :P "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bree Demoss | 10/25/2013

    " My favorite parts of this book are the imagery & symbolism. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeniffer Orpilla | 10/4/2013

    " still..a very timely story even though it is a classic. At present, same treatment but in a different way is still shown or given to women who commits adultery because of discrimination and religion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Teresa | 9/11/2013

    " A book that shows the great strength of one woman against the unfair opinions of the populace and the bias of that socity of men verus women. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tania | 9/5/2013

    " This book...I think that...oh well I just plain did not like it, that's all. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cassidy Diehr | 8/10/2013

    " I liked this book because it was suspenseful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bonnie | 7/1/2013

    " Can't believe I waited this long to read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kellibid | 6/20/2013

    " One of my ultimate favorites. I've read it so many times I've lost count. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steven | 6/14/2013

    " I read it in high school. I you're not used to the "language" you will be lost. But if you have an English teacher explain it to you it's fantastic. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Isotilia | 3/31/2013

    " I loved this book. It is a book from 1850. It shows values of loyalty, faith, love, etc. But it is also revolutionary and 'before its time'. In a world where women had few rights, this author bravelly defeats them. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eduardo Carvalho | 3/29/2013

    " I'm still amazed by the book. It's one of the best I've read in awhile. It's too bad, though, that its cover says too much about the story and spoils it. Hawthorne was a poet. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Swetha Dhanagari | 3/26/2013

    " Words in book seemed like I am reading poetry. Good classic "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tess Wilmoth | 3/26/2013

    " I really did not enjoy this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ian | 3/20/2013

    " I liked this book, but at times I just felt it was so long-winded and pointless that I had to stop reading. It had some really, really good prose in it, but a lot of it was just out-right unnecessary. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rosemond Cates | 11/13/2012

    " One of my all time favorites! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Julie | 11/6/2012

    " Despite the fact that I've dressed up as Hester Prynne for two separate Halloweens, I didn't care for this book very much. I think my aversion to it wasn't that it was badly written. I just didn't care for the people in the story, and I have to care about the characters to want to read it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emily Randall | 10/27/2012

    " I've been reading this for ages, really dragging my feet over it too, I found once I made myself pick it up it flowed but it was the incentive to actually get reading it that slowed me down! Maybe I just need to read some more classics so that I can adjust to the formal writing style properly! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jean | 8/8/2012

    " Starts brilliantly and as the ploy unfold the heroine is wonderful. Draws slowly in the middle and completes well. Beautifully written as is typical of books of this era. Not for people who do not like older forms of writing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kaitlyn Vitale | 6/28/2012

    " Difficult language but quite a good story! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Diana Sarao | 11/3/2011

    " Love- try When She Woke by Hilary Jordan for a modern take "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristy | 5/22/2011

    " I enjoyed this substantially more when I read it again after I was required to read it in high school. Hawthorne makes liberal use of the comma - just ignore them and it flows much better. ;) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rebecca | 5/22/2011

    " You know, surprisingly I liked this book when I read it in high school. For all the rap I heard about it, I thought I wouldn't like it. But I felt that the characters were real. And wasn't there a twist-up in the end? I don't remember . ..it's been so long! =) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dav8d777 | 5/21/2011

    "
    Read for school. Painful as all hell. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nisha | 5/21/2011

    " I've always enjoyed this book because I find something new to focus on every time I read it. This time around was the contemplation of Chillingworth's moral decline. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie.bloomfield | 5/18/2011

    " As most people, I had to read this for a high school English class. This book is a classic and I actually enjoyed reading it and found the messages is conveyed interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Geneal | 5/13/2011

    " I appreciate this book more as an adult reader than I did in high school. It is intriguing for many reasons. The hypocrisy of piety rings through the pages. That scarlet "A" is such a unique symbol. Always a good read! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Huma | 5/11/2011

    " I hated this book. So much. :| I hate Hawthorne in general. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chole | 5/10/2011

    " It was written very long ago and to understand the writing took a little while. But good book "

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About the Author
Author Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and made his ambition to be a writer while still a teenager. He graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, where the poet Longfellow was also a student, and spent several years traveling in New England and writing short stories before his best known novel, The Scarlet Letter, was published in 1850. His writing was not at first financially rewarding, and he worked as measurer and surveyor in the Boston and Salem Custom Houses. In 1853 he was sent to Liverpool as American consul and then lived in Italy before returning to the United States in 1860, where he died in his sleep four years later.