Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter

August 10, 2007

Oh yes, my American Literature students are going to be kissing my feet for this one. I can't remember the last time I had to look up so many words in the dictionary. What authors today liberally sprinkle the pages with words like ignominy, panoply, abstruse, deleterious, importunate, propinquity, loquacity, obeisance, probity, and vicissitude? And right there is a reason for reading A Scarlet Letter: realizing that literature is much more than the action and intrigue of a Tom Clancy novel or the slice-of-life, contemporary novels I so often read. Great literature takes a love triangle and makes a statement about people, society, politics, and religion. And while an extensive vocabulary doesn't mean a piece of literature is a classic, it definitely forces the reader to do a little work.

If only my students can wade through Hawthorne's loquacity to be able to discuss this novel. But I think they'll have fun with some topics:
* How to religious beliefs and colonial laws mix in this novel? How do religion and law mix today?
* How does society demand that we conform to certain conventions? What expectations does society have about how we behave publicly and how we treat other people? What happens when we don't meet those expectations?

I enjoyed re-reading The Scarlet Letter. I predict this will be the most difficult of the novels I've picked for the class I'm teaching at our support group's co-op, but there's something to be said for getting the hard stuff out of the way.

No comments: