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What two necessities, according to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, must the...

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Ca132 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 15, 2013 at 12:01 AM via web

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What two necessities, according to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, must the founders of a new colony provide  immediately?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 15, 2013 at 12:44 AM (Answer #1)

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Chapter one of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne introduces an anonymous narrator who tells us what we need to know before the actual narrative begins. He lets us know that the story is set in the New World; specifically it is set in the mid-1600s in Boston, a Puritan colony.

According to the narrator, two important things must be built as soon as a new colony has been established.

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. 

Those two things are a cemetery and a prison, and the need for each is essentially the same.

The cemetery is necessary because death is a common condition of man. In other words, every person who is born will one day die. Because of that, a cemetery must be established. The prison is necessary because every person is born with the inclination to sin. Not everyone will allow their sins to become crimes, of course, but some will. It is a reflection of sinful human nature that prisons are essential to civilized society. If everyone were perfect, a prison would not be required; however, imperfect people must have a prison as a testament to society's intolerance for criminal (sinful) activity. 

While they represent rather negative aspects of life, a cemetery and a prison are practical needs for every new colony that is established. 

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