Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wayne Josephson

(summary from goodreads)

Readable Classics gently edits the great works of literature, retaining their essence and spirit, and making them more enjoyable and less frustrating for modern readers. Puritan Boston, 1600's -- Beautiful, defiant Hester Prynne commits adultery, refuses to name the father of her illegitimate child, and is condemned to wear a scarlet A on her breast for the rest of her life. She becomes the first true heroine of American fiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 masterpiece was the first American novel to explore the moral struggle with sin, guilt, and pride; the conflict between the heart and the mind; and the deadly consequences of not being able to forgive ourselves and others.

Review: As you can see this review will be a bit different from my usual reviews. It's divided into two separate parts. Since this is a Readable Classics book the original text has been edited to make it easier for the modern reader to read. Therefore, part 1 of the review will be on the story. Part 2 of the review will be on the rewritten aspect of the book.

Part 1: The Scarlet Letter intrigued me from the start. It was astounding to see how people lived in a Purtian society in the 1600's.

The mystery of Hester Prynne and who her secret lover was became clearer the more you read. It wasthis mystery that drove me onward in the book.

The book was written in third person, and this allowed more time for each character to be seen and expressed. I also noticed that this caused quite a decrease in dialogue. There would be chapters where no one spoke at all, but you read what the person was saying internally or what was going on in the town. This, strangely, did not take away, but added to the story. 

Part 2: Mr. Josephson did a wonderful job. After reading his version of The Scarlet Letter I skimmed through a version with the original text and there was a definite difference.

What amazed me was that although it was rewritten it was not completely modernized. I could understand it, but it still had the language and the feel of the 1600's. 

I have seen many a review where people said this would be wonderful for students, but I also think it's great for people like me: people who want to read the classics but aren't totally sure of the language. 

Overall: This was a great story, and it's a classic for a reason. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who hasn't read it. I would also recommend, to both students and the casual reader, to invest in the Readable Classics version, which was very helpful in understanding what was going on.   

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