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Why Do I Have to Read The Scarlet Letter?
I know what you're thinking: Why did my teacher assign me this boring book? Why do I have to read about these uptight Puritans that lived 500 years ago?There are many reasons for reading literature in general. What I want to talk about is why you should read The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850.The Scarlet Letter is considered an American classic. Why? Well, it brilliantly examines many of the great themes of American literature. By reading this book, and thinking about these questions, we can better understand what makes up the American national character. For example, people often say that Americans are more uptight and puritanical than Europeans. Is this true? If it is, how did we get this way? By reading a classic like The Scarlet Letter, you can better understand where these ideas originated.Another reason for reading The Scarlet Letter is for its psychological insights. Hawthorne called The Scarlet Letter a romance, as opposed to more realistic fiction. He was not trying to write a realistic historical novel that accurately portrayed life in Puritan America; rather, he was more interested in the emotions and psychology of his characters. Hawthorne masterfully uses his characters to probe the passions, emotions, and anxieties that all humans share. His main goal was to uncover the truth of the human heart that lies beneath common everyday life. All of us have done wrong, and we all have felt guilty because of our actions. Hawthorne masterfully uses plot, setting, and symbolism to explain his main theme: sin, and the consequences of sin. He shows in the novel how guilt and anxiety result from sins. He was most concerned with the sin of pride. As you read the book, look closely at the pride displayed by many of the main characters. How does this pride lead them to sin? What are the consequences of their sins? These are some of the reasons The Scarlet Letter is considered a classic. After you read the book, do you think it should be required reading for American high school students? If not, what would you substitute in its place?
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