I first read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) 50 years ago. I recently reread it and discovered it was nothing like what I remembered, or what I thought I remembered. Superficially, the book tells the story of a woman in Puritan Boston who gives birth out of wedlock, is shunned and condemned by her fellow citizens, and thumbs her nose at them by embroidering a scarlet letter “A” on her dress.
The novel is actually much more substantive – the story of a woman of rather independent mind caught between the opposing demands of her lover and those of her husband. It’s an exploration of guilt, love, steadfastness, loyalty, and redemption.
I wondered if the same thing would be true of Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables, which I first and last read about that same 50 years ago. What I remembered was that it was a ghost story of sorts, not as wild as an Edgar Allen Poe story but in that vein. I reread it last month, and I discovered that memory misled me even more here than with The Scarlet Letter.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph: Hawthorne in 1848.