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10 Ignominious Facts About 'The Scarlet Letter'

These days, we tend to think about The Scarlet Letter in relation to high school students struggling with their English papers, but we didn’t always see the book that way. When Nathaniel Hawthorne published the novel in 1850, it was a juicy bestseller about an adulterous woman forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest by a community steeped in religious hypocrisy

1. Hawthorne Was So Ashamed Of His Puritan Ancestors, He Changed His Name.

Hawthorne, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, was aware of his messy Puritan heritage. His great-great-grandfather William Hathorne came to Salem in 1636. As the Massachusetts Bay delegate, he tried to rid the town of Quakers by having them whipped and dragged through the street half naked. His son, John Hathorne, was even worse. As a magistrate during the Salem witch trials of 1692, he examined more than one hundred accused witches, and found them all guilty. Hawthorne detested this legacy and distanced himself from his ancestors by…

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