Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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by Leland Ryken

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We’ve all heard about the classics and assume they’re great. Some of us have even read them on our own. But for those of us who remain a bit intimidated or simply want to get more out of our reading, Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics are here to help.

In these short guidebooks, popular professor, author, and literary expert Leland


We’ve all heard about the classics and assume they’re great. Some of us have even read them on our own. But for those of us who remain a bit intimidated or simply want to get more out of our reading, Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics are here to help.

In these short guidebooks, popular professor, author, and literary expert Leland Ryken takes you through some of the greatest literature in history while answering your questions along the way.

Each book:

  • Includes an introduction to the author and work
  • Explains the cultural context
  • Incorporates published criticism
  • Contains discussion questions at the end of each unit of the text
  • Defines key literary terms
  • Lists resources for further study
  • Evaluates the classic text from a Christian worldview

This particular guide opens up the signature book of American literature, Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, and unpacks its universal themes of sin, guilt, and redemption.

Product Details

Publication date:
Christian Guides to the Classics
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Barnes & Noble
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437 KB

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“Ryken is a warm and welcoming guide to the classics of Western literature. The books in this series distill complex works into engaging and relevant commentaries, and help twenty-first-century readers understand what the classics are, how to read them, and why they continue to matter.”
Andrew Logemann, Chair, Department of English, Gordon College

“Students, teachers, homeschoolers, general readers, and even seasoned literature professors like me will find these Christian guides to classic works of literature invaluable. They demonstrate just what is so great about these ‘great books’ and illuminate their meanings in light of Christian truth. Reading these books along with the masterpieces they accompany is a literary education in itself, and there can be few better tutors and reading companions than Leland Ryken, a master Christian scholar and teacher.”
Gene Edward Veith Jr., Provost and Professor of Literature, Patrick Henry College; Director, Cranach Institute, Concordia Theological Seminary

“The Classics are peaks I’ve always wanted to climb, but never had the chutzpah to tackle. I often find myself, as a result, admiring these beauties from afar, wondering if I’ll ever dare an ascent and one day enjoy their views. That’s why I’m delighted to see the release of Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics. Now, I’ve got a boost to my confidence, a feasible course in front of me, and a world-class guide to assist along the way. In fact, Dr. Leland Ryken could scale these peaks in his sleep, having, for decades now, guided hundreds of students to a greater appreciation for the Classics. Lee combines scholarly acumen and Christian faith with uncluttered thinking and crystal-clear style in a way that virtually guarantees no one will get tangled-up in woods or wander off trail. The Classics are now within reach! I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this series!”
Todd Wilson, Senior Pastor, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois; author, Real Christian and The Pastor Theologian

“In an age when many elite universities have moved away from the classics, this series will help re-focus students and teachers on the essential works of the canon. More importantly, it will help present the classics from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian worldview upon which the university was built. These guides offer exactly the kind of resources needed to empower high school and college students (whether in public, private, classical-Christian, or home schools) to connect with the Great Books and to ask the kinds of questions that we all must ask if we are to understand our full status as creatures made in the image of God who have fallen but who can be redeemed.”
Louis Markos, Professor of English, Scholar in Residence, and Robert H. Ray Chair of Humanities, Houston Baptist University; author, Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C. S. Lewis

“It is hard to imagine a better guide than Leland Ryken to help readers navigate the classics. In an age in desperate need of recovering the permanent things, I am thankful that Crossway and Ryken have teamed up to produce excellent guides to help Christians take up and read the books which have shaped the western intellectual tradition.”
Bradley G. Green, Associate Professor of Christian Thought and Tradition, Union University; writer-in-residence, Tyndale House, Cambridge

“The Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken will be a helpful addition to the library of anyone interested in a deeper understanding of classic literature. I can’t help but think that these guides will give us more pleasure and satisfaction from our reading than we would otherwise have. And best of all, we will be better equipped to successfully engage with the ideas and worldviews we come across in our reading. That’s a goal worth pursuing.”
Jonathan Lewis, Editor, Home School Enrichment, Inc.

Meet the Author

Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly 50 years. He has authored or edited over fifty books, including The Word of God in English and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible. He is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society's annual meetings and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible.

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Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
The Scarlet Letter from a Biblical worldview Nearly every college-bound reading list for high school students contains The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Interestingly enough, I was never required to read it in either high school or college. I did read Hawthorne’s other great novel, The House of Seven Gables, for American Literature in my junior year of high school, but I decided to read The Scarlet Letter as an adult. Personally, I didn’t think all that much of it. In my review of it, I quoted a couple of friends. Dave Pratte wrote, “Classic story of a woman guilty of adultery and the torment she and others suffer as a result. Teaches the consequences of sin and the need for confession and forgiveness. Contains denominational error and uses difficult language and symbolism. Not for young children.” And Dale Smelser wrote, “Given the penchant of teachers for assigning The Scarlet Letter, we know that there is Trouble in River City. While [it] in the right circumstances may teach tempered judgment, in the milieu of today’s classroom it may simply make adultery seem less than bad.” Therefore, parents who are trying to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord could use a guide to the book that discusses it from a Biblical worldview, if a young person is required to read the book, and that is exactly what Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter by Leland Ryken, who has a PhD, from the University of Oregon and served as professor of English at Wheaton College for over 43 years, intends to be. After some introductory matter about the nature and function of literature, why the classics matter, how to read a story, the book at a glance, and the author and his faith, every chapter in The Scarlet Letter has a corresponding chapter in the guide with a plot summary, commentary, and “For Reflection or Discussion” sections, along with other side notes. Ryken argues that the foundation of the book is the conflict between the Romantic worldview symbolized by adulteress Hester Prynne and the Christian worldview represented by her partner, the minister Arthur Dimmesdale. He says that the theme is not Hester’s adultery but “the progress of Dimmesdale toward salvation.” Ryken concludes, “Upon reflection here at the end of the story, we cannot help but feel deeply that all the sadness portrayed in the book was the result of an adulterous encounter and/or relationship. As we reach the close of the story, we cannot help but feel great regret that Hester and Dimmesdale committed adultery.” Therefore, if teenagers, or even adults, are going to read The Scarlet Letter, this guide by Leland Ryken from Crossway should prove very helpful. Other books in the series include Milton's Paradise Lost, Homer's The Odyssey, Shakespeare's Macbeth, Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Dickens’s Great Expectations. I have one more comment. Ryken says, “The Scarlet Letter is probably the signature book of American literature.” I am sure that this is true, but while not wishing to negate anything Ryken says in the guide, I still believe that Christians should not necessarily feel any compulsion to read a book just because the people of this world consider it a “classic.”