La Lettre écarlate

République des Lettres

Texte intégral révisé suivi d'une biographie de Nathaniel Hawthorne, préface de Julien Green. La Lettre écarlate, c'est le "A" de "Adultère", la lettre majuscule que Hester Prynne est condamnée à porter en permanence sur sa poitrine, "fantastiquement brodée d'écarlate et d'or", pour expier son péché mortel devant la communauté de Boston, à l'époque -- celle du procès des sorcières de Salem -- modeste colonie de la très puritaine Nouvelle-Angleterre. Elle a en effet eu un enfant avec le jeune et pieux pasteur Arthur Dimmesdale alors qu'elle était encore mariée à un homme qui l'avait abandonnée pour aller vivre avec les Indiens. Revenu sous une fausse identité pour assister au supplice de son épouse, ce dernier se vengera en empoisonnant le pasteur. Roman noir du puritanisme, du scandale et de la culpabilité, "La Lettre écarlate" est le chef-d'oeuvre de Nathaniel Hawthorne et l'un des grands classiques de la littérature américaine.

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Like all of Hawthorne's novels, "The Scarlet Letter" has but a slender plot and but few characters with an influence on the development of the story. Its great dramatic force depends entirely on the mental states of the actors and their relations to one another, —relations of conscience, — relations between wronged and wrongers. Its great burden is the weight of unacknowledged sin as seen in the remorse and cowardice and suffering of the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale. Contrasted with his concealed agony is the constant confession, conveyed by the letter, which is forced upon Hester, and has a double effect, — a healthful one, working beneficently, and making her helpful and benevolent, tolerant and thoughtful ; and an unhealthful one, which by the great emphasis placed on her transgression, the keeping her forever under its ban and isolating her from her fellows, prepares her to break away from the long repression and lapse again into sin when she plans her flight. Roger Chillingworth is an embodiment of subtle and refined revenge. The most striking situation is perhaps "The Minister's Vigil," in chapter xii. The book, though corresponding in its tone and burden to some of the shorter stories, had a more startling and dramatic character, and a strangeness, which at once took hold of a larger public than any of those had attracted. Though imperfectly comprehended, and even misunderstood in some quarters, it was seen to have a new and unique quality; and Hawthorne's reputation became national.
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République des Lettres
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Published on
Aug 29, 2016
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Fiction / Classics
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