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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece, an iconic fable of guilt and redemption set in Puritan Massachusetts, has long been considered one of the greatest American novels.
The story of Hester Prynne—found out in adultery, pilloried by her Puritan community, and abandoned, in different ways, by both her partner in sin and her vengeance-seeking husband—possesses a reality heightened by Hawthorne’s sympathy and his unmixed devotion to his supposedly fallen but fundamentally innocent heroine. The Scarlet Letter rightly deserves its stature as the first great novel written by an American, a work of moral force and narrative power that announced a literature equal to any in the world.
"[Nathaniel Hawthorne] recaptured, for his New England, the essence of Greek tragedy." —Malcolm Cowley