Semi-fictional, this chapter explains how the romance of The Scarlet
Letter came to be presented as a story to the audience. Having always
wanted to be a "literary man," the narrator talks about his
three-year stint as a Surveyor in the Salem Custom House. Mostly filled
with older gentlemen, the workplace was a very political (Whig) environment
and charged with Puritan history.
After brief character sketches of the personalities in the Custom House,
the writer then explains how he came upon a special package among the
piles of papers. It contained a red cloth with "A" embroidered
in gold thread and a manuscript by Jonathan Pue (the man who once held
the writer's job). Finding the story extremely interesting, the narrator
thus retells the story of Hester Prynne from Massachusetts' Puritan
The preface serves to introduce the reader to the narrator and provides
background information for the story. The theme of the novel is based
on a true story. It is a part of American history that originated in
the Puritan Colony of Massachusetts.