8 December, 2021

LitStaff Pick: The Books That Remind Us of Our School Days

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel HawthorneScarlet Letter Image

The novel that most reminds me of my school days, both as student and teacher, is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. As a teenager, I remember getting caught up in the drama and pathos of the tragic romance. The idea of two lonely souls desperate for love but finding only shame tugged on the adolescent heart strings.

As an adult, I realized that the affair between Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale was more of a tool than a focal point, a scalpel used to dissect the questions for which Hawthorne could find no answers. The author’s struggle to reconcile his Puritan heritage with his contemporary philosophy is played out on the pages of this classic narrative.  Is it possible to temper judgment with mercy? Is there a difference between repentance and penance? What does it take for a sinner to find forgiveness? Can freedom from guilt be obtained through the constructs of society?

All serious questions with no simple answers. Each of them relevant to every new generation. That’s why this story resonates with me. That’s why I always made it a mandatory read. Though most of my students complained about the assignment, I hope they appreciated the opportunity to discuss those questions and find some answers for themselves.

~Vickie Price Taylor

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