This part of the novel comes in the first section of the story, entitled "The Custom House," which acts as a framing story, and tells us of how the narrator started working in the Custom House as a kind of escape from writing and gives us a brief sketch of the people he worked with and the setting in which he worked. However, one day we are told, he stumbles across a small package, containing the scarlet letter that Hester Prynne wore so proudly on her breast and the history of Hester Prynne herself. We are told that the narrator is struck greatly by the scarlet letter:
But the object that most drew my attention in the mysterious package was a certain affair of fine red cloth, much worn and faded. There were traces about it of gold embroidery, which, however, was greatly frayed and defaced; so that none, or very little, of the glitter was left.... It was the capital letter "A."
It is this discovery of both the letter and the story attached with it that jolts the narrator back into practising his writing, this time focussing on the narrative revealing the story behind the scarlet letter and the life of Hester Prynne.