Recently read in San Giorgio – the Scarlet Letter

scarlet letter cover

During the summer a family from Milan comes to stay in San Giorgio. Marco, the son and I met a couple of times a week to practice his English. The English teacher had given him some reading material for the summer holidays. He had a parallel text version of McBeth and Merchant of Venice to read through and to get an understanding of the story. So each lesson he would read some and then summarise the plot in English. The other book he had was an abridged version of  “the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne” I knew of the book but had never read it. Thought it would be a very worthy 19th century novel (published 1850) but not very interesting. The book is set in puritan Boston in the 1640s and in the opening chapter a young women (Hester Prynne) is brought out of prison to stand in front of the citizens of the town. She has a red letter A sewn on her dress. This stands for adultress as she has had a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. She will have to continue to wear the sign so she and all the citizens will be reminded of her sin.

We never got the abridged version finished but I was hooked on the opening and so decided to get a copy of the book in order to find out what would happen to her. The book spans 7 years an is really a psychological study of the main characters – Hester, the husband, the child’s father and the child herself. Occasionally the language is rather complex but the book works at lots of levels – a tragic love story, a psychological study of the human condition and an insight into Puritan society in that period. Well worth reading.

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