Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter

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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.


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The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter
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