The Scarlet Letter Chapter 1 Summary And Analysis

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 1 Summary And Analysis
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This chapter gives a detailed description of the town’s prison door. This is where the author introduces the general scene of the book.

The narrative occurs in 17th century Boston during June. A group of Puritans dressed in shabby clothes is standing in front of an aging wooden prison. A wild rose bush is growing just by the door and symbolizes a blessing to new prisoners.

The townspeople believe that this bush started growing upon Anne Hutchison’s admission to the prison. She is a historical icon who underwent tribulations for her belief that humans should place more importance on an individual relationship with God instead of scriptural teachings.

Analysis of the Chapter 1

Hawthorne sets the mood in this chapter. The reader is introduced to the Puritan society both physically and symbolically. The ugliness, as well as decay of the physical environment, is symbolic of the local culture and society. It also foreshadows the gloomy narrative of the novel.

The growing rosebush symbolizes a glimmer of hope through its striking beauty in contrast to its environs. Its location just near the prison door is deemed to offer blessings to new prisoners admitted therein. In this novel, nature contrasts with its general theme, which focuses on the evil nature of puritans in addition to their culture.

Hawthorne also emphasizes on the fact that the colony had set aside some land for both a prison and a cemetery. This signals the fact that no matter how good a society’s intentions are, it eventually succumbs to the sad reality of human nature (I.e., sinful nature, prison/punishment) and destiny (death/mortality/cemetery).

Chapter 1 also depicts the Puritan society as weeds aggressively growing around the prison. However, nature possesses wild beauty freely given by God. The wild rose sprang out of Anne Hutchinson’s footsteps (a saint). It symbolizes nature’s deep heart that gives pity to the prisoner.