Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12

Hawthorne: Author and Narrator

Created October 12, 2010


The Lesson


Hawthorne: Author and Narrator

In fiction, the first-person narrator is usually distinct from the author. Understanding the differences, subtle or pronounced, between an author and the narrator he or she creates is essential to understanding a work of fiction.

Learning Objectives

  • To recognize the difference between a narrator and an author
  • To explore the impact of an author's personal history on his or her creative life, particularly in the context of American society.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Understanding point of view of a narrator and an author

Help students understand how the point of view of the narrator and the point of view of the author are not the same. How does the author represent the narrator? Do they necessarily share common opinions, beliefs, or characteristics? Have students write a short description of the narrator of "The Scarlet Letter," drawing evidence from the introductory chapter and elsewhere in the book. Or you might have students write a short description of school life in the style of the novel's narrator. Another way to understand narrative perspective is to think about how "The Scarlet Letter" would be different if one of the other characters, such as Hester, Dimmsdale, or Pearl, were the narrator. Have students write a passage from the story from the perspective of one of these other characters.

Activity 2. Hawthorne, a contemporary of his times

Help students to see Hawthorne in the context of his times, as a contemporary of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Frederick DouglassHerman Melville, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, and Abraham Lincoln. To what extent was he engaged by the transforming political and technological forces at work in his society, and to what extent was he (like the narrator of The Scarlet Letter) estranged from his times by an overriding attachment to the American past?

Extending The Lesson

To complete this study of Hawthorne's literary and literal lives, have small groups of students each read a Hawthorne short story from different periods in his later life. (Students can find appropriate stories on the Nathaniel Hawthorne website or in the library.) Ask each group to report on the narrative point of view represented in their story, citing passages from the text to support their views. Compare narrators from The Scarlet Letter and a short story. What is the point of view of each narrator? Why did Hawthorne choose these narrators?

Selected EDSITEment Websites

Academy of American Poets

Africans in America

The American President

The Internet Public Library

The Life and Works of Herman Melville

Nathanial Hawthorne

The Basics

Grade Level


Time Required

2-3 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Common Core
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Fables, Fairy tales and Folklore
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Critical thinking
  • Internet skills
  • Interpretation
  • Research
  • Technology