The Scarlet Letter – Comparison of the English and German Wikipedia article

The Scarlet Letter is a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American author of the 19th century. It is considered to be one of the most important works of American literature. This explains why the English version is so distinct from the German one. The English wikipedia article about the Scarlet Letter was first published in July 2003, the German article in April 2004.


Concerning the structure, the English article is much longer. There are 9 main headings and two of them have again two subheadings. The German article has 6 headings and one of them with two subheadings. The headings do not correspond to each other: if we take the third heading, for example, we can find “Publication History” in the English version and “Secondary Literature” in the German version. The images which are used in the articles have only one in common: The title page of the first edition of the novel. Additionally there is one picture of an engraving in the English version. Both the German and the English article have a picture of a painting connected to the novel, but not the same one.

Major Themes of the Scarlet Letter vs. The Scarlet Letter in popular culture

The English article discusses the two main subjects of the text of the novel. These are sin and legality in Puritanism. The German version doesn’t speak about those. Instead, it talks about the response of the novel in films, literature and art. But the English article also emphasizes the role of the Scarlet letter in popular culture. It provides two additional links to two other articles, namely “Film adaptions of the Scarlet Letter” and “The Scarlet Letter in popular culture”.The English version deals with the reactions to the Scarlet Letter in  society at the time whilst the German version lists musical projects and films about the novel.

Links to Secondary Literature vs. Publication History

One heading in the German article concerns secondary literature. The English article deals with the publishing history at the same point. Whilst there are only listed two works of secondary literature in the German version, the paragraph about the publication history in the English version is very detailed. However, secondary literature is not explicitly mentioned in the English version but subsumed in the heading of references which consists of the footnotes and the bibliography.

Intertextuality vs. Publishing of the Novel

In the English version there is one section which examines allusions on the bible or on American history in the novel. The corresponding German point is about the different editions of the novel and about its translations. In the whole German article, intertextual issues are not discussed.

Footnotes and Bibliography

The German version leads the reader to online sources for the article and there are no footnotes all over the article, which is inadequately proven. In the English article however, an entire section is dedicated to prove the content of the article with footnotes, a large bibliography and links to online sources. Additionally we readers are led to Wikipedia articles with a similar content.

Overall View

If we take a closer look at the content of the article, we observe that the English version is much more detailed. The summary of the article or the description of the article which comes before the summary of the novel is about the title, the author, the year of release and the general signification in the German version. In the English version, the description of the article, the content of the novel is already condensed in one sentence at that point and we get a forecast of the themes of the novel.

To conclude we may say that the German article presumably doesn’t differ from the English one, because of reading expectations due to a cultural background, but because it isn’t fully developped yet and rather on a superficial level. There is much potential to enlarge the article in order to get a deeper understanding of the text of the Scarlet Letter.

Cite this blog post
juliawaggenig (2014, December 13). The Scarlet Letter – Comparison of the English and German Wikipedia article. Wikipedia and the Humanities. Retrieved May 23, 2024, from

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