Confessions of an English teacher, vol. 1

Part 1, drafted 3 days ago

The Scarlet Letter
kept getting mentioned recently, for some reason. It's been buzzing around.

I remember hating it in high school. I figured that it wouldn't hurt me to read it now, and that I might actually enjoy it.

Dear lord. I am two CDs in to the audio book, and I am DYING. It's not even to the actual "book" yet--it's still the introduction, called "The Custom House"--and it's the most horrifically boring thing I have ever listened to. No significant action, not a single intriguing character, just meandering, awful, dull prose.

I am completely screwed if I ever have to teach it. When some kid asks, "Miss, what's the significance of that portion of the text?" I'm going to be hard-pressed to come up with any other answer but "hell if I know." It seems to exist merely because Hawthorne enjoyed the sound of his own voice.

Part 2, as of this evening

Shortly after writing the above, I broke through "The Custom House" and into the actual novel (novella? It seems short).

I hate it a bit less, now, but not much. There are, at least, characters worth noticing, and something in the way of action. However, the overwhelming fire/brimstone/devil imagery is SO DAMN OPPRESSIVE. It's his go-to metaphor for nearly everything.

Additionally, anything having to do with Puritanical values is currently rubbing me entirely the wrong way, so I'm mostly in a state of agitation at the narrow-mindedness of the characters as I'm listening to it. (Perhaps it wouldn't bother me so much if I didn't know that these are the types of people our country was founded by, and partially why in contemporary times we have such ridiculous debates about things like gay marriage and death penalties for women getting abortions.)

Anyway. I think this is failed experiment, though if I change my mind about the book once I'm done, I'll be sure to let you know.


  1. Your kids have probably been watching Easy A.

  2. They have been, and that's part of it, but it's been bouncing around in other contexts too.

  3. I remember reading the Scarlet Letter in high school. Like you, I thought the beginning was so awful and boring, but I really started enjoy it once Hester Prynne gets thrown out of the colony. Is that bad of me?

    I like to hear about your opinions on the books you'll have to teach about. When I was in school, I was so naive as to believe that the teachers really loved the books they were teaching. I never understood them.

  4. Well, I don't have to teach it yet. Hopefully not ever.

    At our school, we have a few "required" texts, but because I'm on a different curriculum track I don't really have to follow them (and not like there's any accountability to make sure they are taught even if you're supposed to). I have a great deal of freedom as to the choice of my texts, and so I do enjoy what I teach.

  5. Anya's been watching Easy A, and it's made me think about the novel, too...

    I hated it in high school, same as you, but I liked it the next time I read it. (Definitely NOT the custom house part, though.)

    If you pay attention to the descriptions of Pearl, you'll notice the way she is said to "fly" here and there, or verbs similar to that. She's always treated like a bird, an animal, like a pure part of nature in a positive way. It makes me think that Hawthorne was saying that the product of natural love is a beautiful thing, not a shameful thing.

    Here's to you getting to the good parts.... : )

    BTW--Colin linked your blog on FB, so I look in every few days to see if there's something new. I enjoy your writing. Just sayin'.


  6. He's also continually talking about how she's an imp and gets evil, knowing looks on her face! I think the "fly" reference is meant to be more of a reference to witchcraft, actually.

    I'm glad you enjoy my stuff. That's always nice to hear. =)

  7. You know, I love the story of The Scarlet Letter, but it's about 1000 pages too long. I think I do like Hawthorne, though. I read his short story "Rappaccini's Daughter" sometime later and thought it was lovely, so maybe switch to that instead. I won't tell anyone.


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