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Chapter 1 | The Prison-Door

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 1 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 1 : The Prison-Door | Summary

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Summary

The story is set in Boston, Massachusetts, in the mid-17th century. A group of stern Puritans has gathered in front of the prison, waiting to see a public punishment. The ugliness of the scene is relieved only by the beauty of a wild rosebush blooming by the door to the jail.

Analysis

This chapter introduces the depressing, somber mood of the community and the story. The word steeple linked to iron spikes suggests a punitive religion, a major issue in the novel. The wild rosebush—the only bit of beauty able to survive in such an ugly, dark place—represents the natural attributes of both Hester Prynne and her daughter, Pearl, and the manner in which they stand out from the somber humanity that surrounds them.

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Questions for Chapter 1

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