Download this Lit Guide! Themes and Colors Key. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Scarlet Letter , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. A nameless narrator who has a similar biography to Hawthorne describes his job as chief executive officer of a Custom House, the place where taxes were paid on imported goods. The narrator describes his Custom House colleagues as "wearisome old souls" and Salem, the town where it was located, as old and run-down.
One rainy day, the narrator discovered a peculiar package in the upstairs storage area of the Custom House. The package contained a piece of fabric with a red letter "A" affixed to it along with several pages explaining the history of the letter. The narrator says this discovery formed the core of the story that he will now tell in The Scarlet Letter. Note that the scarlet letter survives hundreds of years after Hester Prynne and the Puritans have perished.
The symbol endures even after those who created it have vanished. He draws a distinction between his "figurative self," whom the public would expect to be dismayed by the lost job, and the "real human being" who welcomed the changes in his life that allowed him to become "again a literary man.
The narrator says he now has the time to write The Scarlet Letter , a story he feels obligated to tell the world. He hopes to make his own mark as a writer and be remembered as a "scribbler of bygone days. The narrator writes with a sense of purpose: He is "the soul and spirit of New England hardihood.
A further connection to the past is his discussion of his ancestors. Hawthorne has ambivalent feelings about their role in his life. In his autobiographical sketch, Hawthorne describes his ancestors as "dim and dusky," "grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steel crowned," "bitter persecutors" whose "better deeds" will be diminished by their bad ones.
Their blood remains in his veins, but their intolerance and lack of humanity becomes the subject of his novel. This ambivalence in his thoughts about his ancestors and his hometown is paralleled by his struggle with the need to exercise his artistic talent and the reality of supporting a family.
Hawthorne wrote to his sister Elizabeth in , "No man can be a Poet and a Bookkeeper at the same time. His job at the Custom House stifles his creativity and imagination. The scarlet letter touches his soul he actually feels heat radiate from it , and while "the reader may smile," Hawthorne feels a tugging that haunts him like his ancestors.
Hawthorne explains that, in a certain light and time and place, objects ". Finally, the preface serves as means of authenticating the novel by explaining that Hawthorne had discovered in the Salem Custom House the faded scarlet A and the parchment sheets that contained the historical manuscript on which the novel is based.
The Custom House is largely an autobiographical sketch describing Hawthorne's life as an administrator of the Salem Custom House. It was written to enlarge the tale of The Scarlet Letter, since Hawthorne deemed the story too short to print by itself. It also serves as an excellent essay on society.
A summary of The Custom-House: Introductory in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
Sample A+ Essay; How To Cite No Fear The Scarlet Letter; The Custom-House. 1 “[W]e may prate of the circumstances that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the inmost Me behind its veil. To this extent and within these limits, an author, methinks, may be autobiographical, without violating either the reader’s rights or his. So little adapted is the atmosphere of a Custom–house to the delicate harvest of fancy and sensibility, that, had I remained there through ten Presidencies yet to come, I doubt whether the tale of “The Scarlet Letter” would ever .
Custom House in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay Words 2 Pages In the "Custom House," written as an introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne gives an autobiographical description of his life and times. Summary Hawthorne begins The Scarlet Letter with a long introductory essay that generally functions as a preface but, more specifically, accomplishes four signi The Custom-House Sign In | Sign Up.