Book Club 101: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Welcome to the blog post discussing how to structure your book club event inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's timeless classic, The Scarlet Letter. Here, we'll explore and discuss this compelling tale of redemption, forgiveness, and punishment that follows Hester Prynne as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, and we’ll go through fun ideas to spice up your book club event.

BlogBook Club 101: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Welcome to the blog post discussing how to structure your book club event inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's timeless classic, The Scarlet Letter. Here, we'll explore and discuss this compelling tale of redemption, forgiveness, and punishment that follows Hester Prynne as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, and we’ll go through fun ideas to spice up your book club event.

The Scarlet Letter: Book Summary

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is an enduring classic novel set in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony in the late 17th century. 

The story follows protagonist Hester Prynne, a woman shunned by her community after giving birth to an illegitimate child out of wedlock. 

She is forced to wear the infamous Scarlet Letter “A” as a mark of shame and soon becomes embroiled in a story full of forbidden love, guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption. 

Through Hester’s journey, we see how one woman’s courage can withstand all sorts of external judgment and create positive change within herself and her society. 

If You Are Looking for an Emotional Read That Explores the Complexities of Morality, Pick Up This Timeless Classic Today for Free

Top 3 Lessons We Can Learn From The Scarlet Letter

Below, we will discuss the three important life lessons from Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. The pillars of those lessons are morality, consequences, and forgiveness.

1. Actions have consequences. 

In The Scarlet Letter, the main character Hester Prynne is publicly shamed for her adultery and forced to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ for the rest of her life as a reminder of her sin. Although this punishment is unfair and harsh, it teaches a valuable lesson – our actions have consequences, and no one can escape them.

2. We should not succumb to judgment from society. 

Despite facing immense scrutiny from the townspeople of Boston, Hester maintains her dignity throughout the novel by remaining silent when provoked and refusing to apologize for her mistakes. This teaches readers that it is crucial to stand up for oneself despite criticism from those around us.

3. Strength lies in forgiveness. 

In The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale commits an equally sinful act as Hester Prynne, but he hides it out of fear of condemnation from society. However, at the novel's end, he finds redemption through his ability to forgive himself and find strength in his newfound peace. This illustrates the importance of forgiving ourselves for moving on with our lives and achieving genuine happiness.

How to Create a Book Club Event on The Scarlet Letter to Remember

Following, we will explore how to create a memorable event centered around Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter, complete with engaging activities and insightful discussions.

Decorations

Bring Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter to life at your next book club gathering with creative and meaningful embellishments. 

Hang a large piece of scarlet cloth from the wall as an homage to the famous letter, while twinkling white Christmas lights will give off an ethereal atmosphere. You can even create handcrafted felt "A"s to use as party favors or hang up in various places throughout your gathering. 

Choose traditional colonial colors for napkins and plates representing Hester Prynne’s period and evoke her punishment. Surround yourself with elements like wildflowers and feathery plants throughout the novel, symbolizing nature's understanding of morality versus human law.

A giant chessboard will also help you dive deeper into discussions about who is “winning” and “losing” between characters like Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, Pearl, and Reverend Wilson. 

You’ll have created a unique Scarlet Letter-inspired experience when all is said and done.

Food and Drinks

Whether you want to stay true to the novel's setting or add a modern twist, there are many options.

Puritan-inspired menu could include baked beans, rye bread, root vegetables, hard cider, and nutmeg-spiced cookies for dessert. 

If you’re looking for something more contemporary, why not go for scones, clotted cream, Waldorf salad with cranberries and walnuts, roasted chestnuts, and mulled wine?

Create place cards inspired by the characters in the novel – with Hester’s signature ‘A’ being prominent on each one. Then serve up traditional English tea-like finger sandwiches and delicate pastries alongside herbal teas and warm apple cider.

Whether you stick to the historical elements of the novel or come up with something more modern, these ideas are sure to impress your book club guests.

Activities

Questions

1. How did the concept of public shaming and guilt play out in The Scarlet Letter?

2. How do themes of sin and repentance intertwine throughout the novel?

3. How did Hawthorne use light and dark imagery to convey the theme of duality?

4. Why was Pearl so important in Hester’s life, and why did her existence affect so many other characters?

5. In what ways did Dimmesdale’s lack of confession contribute to his physical demise?

6. Do you believe that Hawthorne’s portrayal of Puritan society was fair or critical?

7. What is the significance of the letter “A” on Hester’s chest?

8. What does the forest symbolize in this story?

9. Is Hester Prynne, a strong female protagonist? If so, why?

10. How did reading The Scarlet Letter change your understanding or perspective about social stigma and its impact on relationships?  

Highlighted Notes

  1. Share a beautifully written phrase
  2. Share a phrase of advice or life lesson that resonated with you
  3. Share a phrase that portrayed symbolism and your interpretation
  4. Share a phrase that made you laugh 
  5. Share a phrase that moved you
  6. Share a phrase that provoked a different feeling

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