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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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PREFACE: Custom House

In the "Custom House," written as an introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne gives an autobiographical description of his life and times. The detailed descriptions of the scenes and people not only prepare the reader for the author's style, but also aim at recreating the author's past. The preface concentrates on the author's period of service at the Custom House during which time he came into contact with several people and had the opportunity to study human behavior. The description of his co- employees and others shows the author's deft hand at characterization, which is revealed during the novel. Further, the preface serves the purpose of giving a background to the novel and introduces America's Puritanical ancestors. Through the novel, by taking a favorable view of Hester and Dimmesdale and by drawing Chillingworth in evil proportions, Hawthorne attempts to undo the wrong and injustice done by his ancestors. The reference to the discovery of the scarlet letter and some papers referring to the incident of a woman condemned like Hester is to strengthen the author's claim of the authenticity of the story.

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