This book is difficult to get through, to be quite honest. It was written in the 1800s, but written about the 1600s. The language of the Puritans is a lot different than the language of modern society. But, that being said, if you look past the difficult language, you see a story that easily stands the test of time. It is very easy to see a modern woman in the role of Hester Prynne, a modern man in the role of Arthur Dimmesdale, and a modern child in the role of Pearl.
If I could say anything about this book, it reads very much as a story about overcoming difficulty. Hester is not a woman who caves under the weight of her punishment. She instead thrives in it. She learns to move on, and she raises her daughter to the best of her ability. She is a single mother who does what she can to make her daughter's life as comfortable as it can be. But she is also a very proud woman. Instead of telling the people of the town that Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale was the father of her daughter and deserved to share in the punishment, she stayed silent.
I believe that her silence was a way of not betraying him, but also saying that if he wished to share in the punishment publicly, he would have to be the one to reveal his sin. He waits seven long years, and reveals that sin on the day he dies. Personally, I think this was a major cop out. He never got to publicly feel his sin the way that Hester did. He was too afraid to lose his position and so he punished himself for what he did in the privacy of his own home. Hester was punished by the town wherever she went. It seems awfully unfair that he didn't share that public shame.
I really enjoy Hester as a character. She is very strong and admirable as a woman. I've spent the last year being a single mom, so I feel I can relate to her somewhat. I admit that I don't share the sin that she did, but I share some of the outcome. My daughter was born, my husband deployed, and I spent a year caring for her alone while he was away. It seems unfair, but at the same time, I know that he isn't enjoying this. So I feel like, while Dimmesdale never dealt with the public shame, his personal punishment was much worse than what the public would have dealt him.
Whatever your own position on this book might be, I highly recommend it (if you haven't already read it). I do suggest getting the Oxford World's Classic version since it contains a very helpful guide at the back to some of the more obscure references to our time.