1 Answer | Add Yours
This description comes from chapter one of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The chapter is titled "The Prison-Door" and, though it is a very short chapter, sets the tone, attitude, and expectation for the rest of the novel.
The narrator says that every group of people who have founded a new city,
whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project,
have always found the need, early on, to set aside a plot of land as a cemetery and build a prison on another plot of land. In that regard, the founders of Boston were no exception, and they built a prison and a cemetery.
The reason for this, of course, is that some aspects of humans and human nature never change. Everyone dies--thus the cemetery--and everyone sins (and in Puritan terms sinning is also breaking the law)--thus the prison.
The narrator goes on to describe the prison in Boston (the setting for this story) which, after twenty years, is well used and weather-beaten.
The rust on the ponderous iron-work of its oaken door looked more antique than any thing else in the new world. Like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era.
Again, Hawthorne is commenting through the narrator that the one consistent element in society is sin/crime; it has existed from the beginning and it still exists today. His point is that human nature, at least the negative aspects of it, are unchanging.
We’ve answered 396,436 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question