The Scarlet Letter Introduction
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter book cover
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Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, The Scarlet Letter has been a mainstay of English classrooms for decades. While it has its challenges—difficult language, adultery, and sexism—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying The Scarlet Letter will give them insight into symbolism and important themes exploring transgression, guilt, and alienation. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1850
  • Recommended Grade Level: 9th and up
  • Approximate Word Count: 64,600
  • Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Genre: Historical Novel
  • Literary Period: American Romantic
  • Conflict: Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self, Person vs. Person
  • Narration: Third-Person Omniscient
  • Setting: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Structure: Prose Novel
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Symbolism, Allusion
  • Mood: Complex, Condemnatory, Foreboding

Texts that Go Well with The Scarlet Letter

The Crucible (1953), by Arthur Miller, is a play set in Puritan New England during the Salem witch trials. The Crucible explores the dangers of religious extremism and hypocrisy in its veiled criticism of the Red Scare, in which the United States government persecuted suspected communists without sufficient evidence.

Elmer Gantry (1926), by Sinclair Lewis, satirically examines religious hypocrisy among fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who had gained popularity in the United States during the 1920s. The novel follows Reverend Dr. Elmer Gantry, a man who embraces evangelism while also engaging in drinking and illicit sex with women.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), by Margaret Atwood, is a dystopian novel set in Gilead, a fictional theocracy established after the United States government is overthrown by a group of...

(The entire section is 436 words.)