Evidence from the novel suggests that Hawthorne himself wanted to create an American book as well as a great book. In “The Custom-House,” Hawthorne’s introduction to The Scarlet Letter, he describes the CustomHouse in connection with key national symbols:
From the loftiest point of its roof . . . ﬂ oats or droops, in breeze or calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military post of Uncle Sam’s government is here established. . . . Over the entrance hovers an enormous specimen of the American eagle, with outspread wings, a shield before her breast, and if I recollect aright, a bunch of intermingled thunderbolts and barbed arrows in each claw. . . . Nevertheless, vixenly as she looks, many people are seeking, at this very moment, to shelter themselves under the wing of the federal eagle; imagining, I presume, that her bosom has all the softness and snugness of an eiderdown pillow. But she has no great tenderness,
even in her best of moods, and, sooner or later,—oftener soon than late,—is apt to ﬂ ing off her nestlings, with a scratch of her claw, a dab of her beak, or a rankling wound from her barbed arrows” (9).