Struggling financially as a writer, Hawthorne through his connections with the Democratic Party procured a political appointment in 1846 to be a Custom House surveyor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Following the 1849 inauguration of Taylor, the president’s fellow Whig Party members accused Hawthorne of “corruption, iniquity and fraud.” Hawthorne’s fierce fight to retain his government job was covered by partisan newspapers around the country, but he was ultimately let go in June 1849. After his dismissal, the novelist immersed himself for months in writing “The Scarlet Letter,” considered by many to be his best work.
Hawthorne’s high rank among American fiction writers is the result of at least three considerations. First, he was a skillful craftsman with an impressive arthitectonic sense of form. The structure of The Scarlet Letter , for example, is so tightly integrated that no chapter, no paragraph, even, could be omitted without doing violence to the whole. The book’s four characters are inextricably bound together in the tangled web of a life situation that seems to have no solution, and the tightly woven plot has a unity of action that rises slowly but inexorably to the climactic scene of Dimmesdale’s public confession. The same tight construction is found in Hawthorne’s other writings also, especially in the shorter pieces, or “tales.” Hawthorne was also the master of a classic literary style that is remarkable for its directness, its clarity, its firmness, and its sureness of idiom .