Literature Study GuidesThe Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Course Hero. "The Scarlet Letter Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 16 Aug. 2022. <>.

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Course Hero. "The Scarlet Letter Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed August 16, 2022.


Course Hero, "The Scarlet Letter Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed August 16, 2022,


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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Year Published






Perspective and Narrator

The Scarlet Letter is told in both the first-person (introductory essay) and the third-person omniscient (the narrative). The narration of the introduction, "The Custom-House," is in the first person, both clearly autobiographical and intensely emotional. The body of The Scarlet Letter is told from a third-person omniscient—or all-knowing—point of view, revealing the thoughts and feelings of all characters in great depth.


The Scarlet Letter is told primarily in the past tense.

About the Title

The scarlet letter is the primary symbol in the novel. The letter initially stands for adultery, but the meanings multiply as the novel progresses. Originating in Hester's punishment, the scarlet letter she must wear as the sign of her sin reoccurs in mysterious manifestations: a sumptuous and fanciful embroidery that displays her talents, her sensitive spirit, and her distance from the habits and tastes of those who condemn her; a meteor blazing across the sky; a painful mark on the skin over Dimmesdale's heart. Eventually the letter becomes a sign of Hester's redemption, an A for able and angel. Finally these shifts demonstrate the instability of set meaning and an error in assuming that the complexity of human behavior may be summarized in a single term.


This study guide and infographic for Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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