A piece of classic literature is read because it’s “the best in its class,” a piece of writing that has “stood the test of time” and earned the label “excellent” with its accurate portrayal of human experience. The classics “represent the best that has been thought or said,” writes author Leland Ryken, 45-year, Wheaton College English professor.
However, there is a general decline in reading the classics because they are considered “hard and too old,” writes Jesse Rutigliano in his Op-Ed column: Decline in Reading Classic Literature
It’s because of that attitude, Ryken penned a series he calls Christians’ Guide to the Classics, Crossway Books that makes the classics easier to read and understand, especially for the home-schooled or those who teach home-schooled children.
This review concerns The Scarlet Letter, the classic penned by Nathaniel Hawthorne, first published in 1850. Click through the list above the review for additional classic titles.
The guides include an introduction to the author, the cultural context, the setting, critiques of the work, and definitions of literary terms where Ryken explores “setting, plot and character.” Chapters begin with plot summaries and end with questions for individuals or for reading groups to reflect on and discuss.
A running story commentary, set off by a dark page line, runs alongside the text. For example, in chapter 13, “Another View of Hester,” Ryken writes. “Storytellers love to work by contrasts and juxtaposition. After several chapters that have unfolded the ongoing story of Dimmesdale, this chapter shifts the focus back to Hester….”
He also includes reading tips and common misconceptions of the classic he’s writing about. The guide would make an exceptional companion volume when reading the book, since the guide doesn’t include the actual story, but is only about the story, characters, author and setting.
Look for more of this popular series in the spring of 2014 when Dickens’ “Great Expectation” and Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” join the series. Crossway Blog
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Christian’s Guide to the Classics, by Leland Ryken, Crossway, 2013, 80 Pages, 978-1433526084, $5.66