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Explore Activities from the Literature Section

Explore Activities from the Literature Section

Activities Relating to the Custom-House Sketch

Illustration of the Custom House from early edition of <I>The Scarlet Letter</I>
Illustration of the Custom House from early edition of The Scarlet Letter (courtesy of James R. Osgood and Co.)
  1. A student interested in history or architecture might wish to look at the information on merchants of the eighteenth century in Salem, the images of the houses where Elias Haskett Derby lived, and the image of Derby Wharf shortly after Hawthorne's time. Then the student might use those sources along with the description Hawthorne gives of Salem at the beginning of the "Custom House" chapter to write an essay discussing how maritime Salem of Hawthorne's time, in the mid-nineteenth century, differs from the Salem of the Golden Age of the late 1700s.

  1. A student who enjoys creative writing might wish to look at the architecture of the Custom House and the panoramic tour of Hawthorne's office and then use these materials and the sections of "The Custom-House" chapter in which Hawthorne describes life at the Custom House and his fellow employees to write a creative, first person piece from Hawthorne's viewpoint which reveals his attitudes toward his job and the people at the Custom House.

  2. A student interested in the character of Hester Prynne might view a photograph of a painting of Hester by George Henry Boughton in 1881 and read the remarks of the late Dr. Joseph Flibbert of Salem College on the character in an earlier Hawthorne work, "The Gentle Boy," who might have been the model for Hester Prynne, read "The Gentle Boy, ", and examine the movie poster for the 1965 version of The Scarlet Letter and the compare these depictions with the Hester of The Scarlet Letter.


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