Finding Hope in The Scarlet Letter

“Stretching for the official staff in his left hand, he laid his right upon the shoulder of a young woman, whom he thus drew forward; until, on the threshold of the prison door, she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will.” — The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is one of my favorite stories. It is about revenge, passion, forgiveness, compassion, blame, and guilt. The world of Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl is full of rejection, isolation and accusation. The red on her chest and the blackness of a legalistic culture weaves a tapestry of grace into the heart of Hester Prynne. Would any of us choose the red or the black in order to be transformed? Probably not, but stories like this inspire me to hope and that is why I return to this book over and over.

If you plan to read The Scarlet Letter you  might enjoy doing a little prereading. I like making friends with the author and his characters before I read an unfamiliar book, especially if it’s a classic. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of dusty old pages held together with a couple of pieces of cardstock. I look for ways bring it to life. Sometimes I examine the author’s culture and sometimes it’s the culture of the setting that I want to know more about. For the The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I’m interested in the knowing more about the setting, the mid 1600s.  In every time period I enjoy reading the food. I believe the table is the center of any culture. Our literature club has a themed meal for each book and that is another reason I research food and recipes. To view the links I found for this time period scroll to the bottom of the page.

The Historical Context Treasure Chest

I love costumes. I really can’t say I love fashion because it doesn’t give me the thrill that costume does. Let’s look at a few pictures of the clothing from the mid 1600s.

The links below are about various things from the 1600s. Enjoy!

This is probably the best link of all because it includes links to topics like medicine, food, family like, gardening, education, literacy, and much, much more. I book marked this page.

Massachusetts Bay Colony (a.k.a. Boston, Mass.)

Historical Ann Hibbins: Mistress Hibbins is a character in The Scarlet Letter who was executed for suspicion of being a witch.

Puritan Life:  Records of the Colony

of New Plymouth in New England

 Puritan Laws

 This is a nice link to read general information on various topics in the 1600s like fashion, weaving, Native American fashion, etc.

 If you would like to read The Scarlet Letter for free use this link.


Foods and Recipes of Early American Settlers

Food in the 13 Colonies

What about you? Do you have a favorite character in The Scarlet Letter? Do the clothes, food and daily like of other characters intrigue  you?


Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.

Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.


  1. Ali, thanks so much for your insight into the book. I read it in high school, but can’t wait to read it again with my son. As a homeschool mom, I tend to get overburdened with the day-to-day tasks of schooling, and just ‘getting it done,’ and don’t have the time or energy to really explore the most valuable, meaty parts of literature. I’m thankful for your ability and willingness to guide the kids into the depths of these books even when they don’t THINK they will enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to learning, myself. Thanks for the links, as well, as I always love making period food to go with whatever we are studying.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge