Prepared by Terri Whitney,
Department of English
North Shore Community College,
Hawthorne's Office in the Salem Custom House(photography by Aaron Toleos)
The "Custom-House " sketch is a blend of fact and fantasy. In it Hawthorne does refer to real people, places, and events in Salem,
and he also uses this first chapter to introduce the fictional Hester Prynne who wears the scarlet letter that the narrator finds in the Custom House attic.
However, this story of the alienated surveyor and his surroundings is linked in more profound ways to the story of the isolated Hester.
We hope that the links will provide a historical context for the work and also help readers perceive the relationships between the first chapter
and the rest of the novel.
This section of the Website provides the full text of the first chapter of the Ohio State University Press Centenary Edition
of The Scarlet Letter, also known as The Custom-House Sketch.