The Worst Book I Had to Read in High School

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Oh, look at the time! It's time for a literary rant! I mean let's face it: the only thing we book nerds love to do other than gush about our current favorites is ranting about the books we hate. And, what better topic to focus on than those horrid books you were forced to read in high school? So, sit back and relax while I discuss one of these books that fills me with venomous hatred: The Scarlet Letter.

* Disclaimer: if you like this book, that's totally fine. This article is made up entirely of my own trash opinions. I'm glad you were able to gain some sort of enjoyment out of this dumpster fire of a book. *

Kristen Bryant-Medicine On Notebook Kristen Bryant / Her Campus

But first, a summary. ~spoiler alert, I guess~

The book was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and published in 1850. It tells the story of Hester Prynne, a puritan woman living 17th century of Massachusetts. She has recently given birth to a baby girl named Pearl… but PLOT TWIST: her husband had been presumed lost at sea! *outraged Puritan noises* So, the upstanding, good citizens of the town decide to take it upon themselves to publicly shame her by pining the scarlet letter ‘A’ on her with of course the A standing for Adultery. Hester then spends most of the book effectively shunned from society.

Meanwhile, PLOT TWIST II: the husband is back and posing as this guy Roger Chillingworth in order to get revenge on Hester. He's practicing medicine, so he looks after the minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, who's suffering from some kind of psychological pain. Gee, I wonder what his deal is??? Then, more shenanigans happen that I don't really want to talk about and the book ends with Dimmesdale confessing publicly that he is in fact Pearl's dad. And, then he dies.

Now, after seeing that summary, you might think, "Well that sounds interesting!" It has everything: scandal, psychological torture, and revenge. That's what I thought too when I first learned about the book. Then, I actually had to read it my sophomore year of high school. The plot is almost non-existent in this book. That's not to say that events don't happen in this book because they absolutely do. But it is a SLOG to get to any kind of progression because Hawthorne keeps stopping in narrative cul-de-sacs every five seconds. He never shuts up about how nature is just so beautiful. Just look at this great forest with trees! Hawthorne had this amazing set up of a puritan woman who has a child out of wedlock. Now she must face the collective wrath of society, all while everyone wonders who the baby's father is. It just boggles my mind that with a setup like that, The Scarlet Letter still managed to be as dry and boring as it was.

Hawthorne also frames Dimmesdale as this sort of tragic hero figure, and I just do not care for him. The conditions under which he suffers are not ideal, I'll grant him that. But Hester is the one dealing with the brunt of the social scorn, and you don't see her breaking down and torturing herself. No, she has a daughter to think of. Dimmesdale doesn't have to deal with nearly enough crap that Hester has to, yet Hawthorne still expects me to sympathize with his pain. He even gets the easy way out! Dimmesdale dies before he has to face any scrutiny! He's a horrible person, and I don't understand what Hester saw in him.

It was for these reasons that reading The Scarlet Letter in high school made me really angry. The worst part back then was coming to English class every day and trying to analyze this death march of a book. It seemed like the story was going to be rife with tension and characters. Instead, what I got was a bunch of dumb descriptions of New England scenery with the loose trappings of a plot and characters that I hated. I will say that the whole experience made such an impact on me that I still remember this book nearly four years later. So, if The Scarlet Letter did anything right, it stays stuck in your head, whether you love it. In my case, hate it with extreme prejudice.