The Scarlet Letter - Research Article from Literature and Its Times

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by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In "The Custom-House," the introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne fabricates a story in which he explains that he stumbled upon a worn piece of red cloth in the shape of an A while working in Salem's Custom-House, where taxes were collected on imported goods. Accompanying the cloth, he continues, was an old manuscript about a certain Hester Prynne, who, two centuries earlier, had been forced to wear the now-faded A in public as punishment for committing the sin of adultery. While in reality Hawthorne found no such document, his novel was influenced by historical manuscripts about Puritan New England and his own ancestors. Hawthorne's family history harked back to the Massachusetts of the 1600s, where Puritan justice could reasonably have passed down such a punishment for adultery.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Takes Place

The Puritans in Massachusetts. In...

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This section contains 3,919 words
(approx. 14 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy The Scarlet Letter Encyclopedia Article
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Literature and Its Times
The Scarlet Letter from Literature and Its Times. ©2008 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.