Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Scarlet Letter-Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wayne Josephson

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wayne Josephson
Readable Classics, Nov 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780615332017

In seventeenth century Boston, scholar Roger Chillingworth returns to the Puritan colony after two years in England. He is stunned to find his much younger lovely wife Hester Prynne with an illegitimate daughter Pearl, a resident of Prison awaiting trial for adultery. Hester refuses to betray her lover for his condemnation for violating one the God’s Commandments. Her punishment is to wear a capital Letter A on her breast for the rest of her life. Roger vows to expose the cretin who dishonored him. For refusing to reveal her lover's identity, she is condemned to wear a letter 'A' sewn onto her clothes. Driven to madness, Roger resolves to discover and destroy the man who has stolen his honor. Over the next few years, Hester does her best by her daughter while suffering poverty, humiliation and guilt for what she cannot offer her beloved Pearl; while the two men not in her life fail to cope with crippling guilt, remorse and cowardliness.

As he did with another classic Jane Eyre, Wayne Josephson provides a modernization of the syntax of the language while adhering to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s powerful moral message that rings true today with for instance the abortion controversy. Purists will insist if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, but Mr. Josephson makes a strong case that the 1850 published novel is going the way of the Canterbury Tales (let the purists read that in ye olde English). The re-touch is a bit more than desired, as part of the original is the overdrawn atmospheric background of a martinet paternal society invoking God’s wrath. Still Mr. Josephson does a super job of making this great classic starring a brave heroine much easier to read and very entertaining while enhancing the strong message of forgiving oneself as well as others for “sins”.

Harriet Klausner

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