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The Oxford History of the Novel in EnglishVolume 5: The American Novel to 1870$
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J. Gerald Kennedy and Leland S. Person

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195385359.001.0001

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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

Chapter:
(p.343) 20 The Scarlet Letter
Source:
The Oxford History of the Novel in English
Author(s):

Monika Elbert

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195385359.003.0020

This chapter offers a reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 historical fiction The Scarlet Letter: A Romance. It first considers Henry James’s opinion of The Scarlet Letter before discussing the “American” qualities attached to the novel and the darkness associated with its appeal. It then examines why The Scarlet Letter has become a great piece of American literature despite its themes of sinfulness, law, and unjust punishment. It also analyzes Hawthorne’s decision to take on the challenge of writing the historical romance before concluding with an assessment of criticisms against Hawthorne’s morality and politics.

Keywords:   American literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne, historical fiction, The Scarlet Letter, Henry James, sinfulness, unjust punishment, historical romance, morality, politics

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