Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 1850
Genre Fiction
Origin US
Publisher Signet
My Copy cheap signet paperback
First Read January 22, 2018

The Scarlet Letter

File under: another great book that I've never read. Actually, I didn't even know the plot of the Scarlet Letter, not even close! Here's what I knew: there is a woman, who is going to have an affair, and the woman will forced to wear a shame-inducing red A on her chest. We will sympathize with the woman, and revile basically everybody else in the book.

What I did not know was that all of that happens before the book starts, and that there's a 60-page prologue about Hawthorne working in a customs house. This was, in its entirety, a delightful surprise. I had NO idea what to expect, or where the plot was going to lead.

We did, of course, sympathize with the woman (Hester Prynne, I learned her name!), and revile the men (those guys, whatever). I did NOT anticipate Hester being such a pure, Dickensian-like heroine - she could practically swapped out with Little Dorrit and the book wouldn't be that different, despite her putative stain of the scarlet letter.

I also had no inkling of Pearl before I read this, Hester's daughter (again, she shows up in literally the first scene of the book). She was a fun addition, and I assume she became a prototype of the elfin mischievous too-honest moppet characters that follow her in literature.

Noted on February 3, 2018

Thus, Hester Prynne, whose heart had lost its regular and healthy throb, wandered without a clew in the dark labyrinth of mind; now turned aside by an insurmountable precipice; now starting back from a deep chasm. There was wild and ghastly scenery all around her, and a home and comfort nowhere. At times, a fearful doubt strove to possess her soul, whether it were not better to send Pearl at once to heaven, and go herself to such futurity as Eternal Justice should provide.

Quoted on February 3, 2018

To the untrue man, the whole universe is false,—it is impalpable,—it shrinks to nothing within his grasp.

Quoted on February 3, 2018

The moment when a man's head drops off is seldom or never, I am inclined to think, precisely the most agreeable of his life.

Quoted on February 3, 2018

It is sadly curious to observe how slight a taste of office suffices to infect a poor fellow with this singular disease. Uncle Sam's gold—meaning no disrespect to the worthy old gentleman—has, in this respect, a quality of enchantment like that of the Devil's wages. Whoever touches it should look well to himself, or he may find the bargain to go hard against him, involving, if not his soul, yet many of its better attributes; its sturdy force, its courage and constancy, its truth, its self-reliance, and all that gives the emphasis to manly character.

Quoted on February 3, 2018

In his port was the dignity of one who had borne his Majesty's commission, and who was therefore illuminated by a ray of the splendor that shone so dazzlingly about the throne. How unlike, alas! the hang-dog look of a republican official, who, as the servant of the people, feels himself less than the least, and below the lowest, of his masters.

Quoted on February 3, 2018

It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.

Quoted on February 3, 2018

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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