The introduction to this volume outlines the critical history of the novel from the moralising reactions of Hawthorne's contemporaries, through the assessments of writers such as Henry James and D. H. Lawrence, to the more recent approaches of the New Criticism, formalism, psychoanalytical criticism, structuralism and feminism. Each of the interpretative essays that follow places The Scarlet Letter in a specific historical and cultural context. The first shows that an awareness of the convention of romance is essential to an understanding of the novel. A second investigates the tension between Hawthorne's Puritan setting and his Romantic language, suggesting a complex relationship among author, narrator, characters, and story. A third considers the novel's pervasive metaphor of sexuality. The final essay locates the work in the genre of 'the novel of adultery'.