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A Good Place To Start

The Scarlet Letter 3
The House of the Seven Gables 2

A Bad Place To Start

The Marble Faun 1


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Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

pageminder November 25th, 2006 04:03 PM PST

I was shocked, when I recently reread "The Scarlet Letter," to find that it begins with an introductory section called "The Custom-House." I had no memory of this; maybe it was excluded from the edition given to me as a ninth grader, or maybe it just meant nothing to me then. At all events, it is framing device for the story to follow and, at the same time, a fascinating piece of writing about work, government bureaucracies and especially writing. It gives you a wonderful, intimate sense of Hawthorne as a person. He is very witty, I was surprised to learn as a grownup.
All the same, I like "The House of the Seven Gables" better as a story, and would suggest starting there. It has great characters and a great plot (and the themes they make you write about in high school), and it is written with rich wit and terrific, close observation. Some of the characters feel entirely contemporary. I would say to start with that, but if you find you aren't liking it, try "The Scarlet Letter" before giving up on Hawthorne. Just make sure you get an edition with "The Custom-House" at the start.
I think it is a shame that high school students are given Hawthorne to read. They aren't old enough--haven't had a chance yet to live enough--to get him, and are consequently unlikely ever to try him again as adults.

emac52 May 3rd, 2007 09:20 AM PST

I've only read 'The Scarlet Letter' but I have to admit that it was amazing just how 'current' the issues it raises still are. To me, that's one of the signs of a good writer & even though the language is a little dated, the issues raised (society's reaction to the 'sin', how the child and mother are treated, etc) are still relevant even in today's modern world of 'live and let live'. A good one to read just so that you can offer a word of thanks that we live in supposedly more tolerant times.

heroichex July 28th, 2008 12:07 PM PST

The moral to Hawthorne's "The Custom House" story is:



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