Describe Hawthorn's use of figurative language and sentence structure in chapter 1 of The Scarlet Letter.

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Chapter 1 is titled “The Prison-Door,” and it is largely a symbolic chapter that introduces the thematic ideas of the novel. Within this, Hawthorne uses metaphor along with cumulative sentence structure to communicate messages about mankind and nature.

A cumulative sentence contains an independent clause with successive modifiers that add detail about the subject or topic of the sentence. Hawthorne uses cumulative sentences throughout the chapter almost exclusively. His use of dashes, commas, and semicolons serve as markers for the additional detail his style includes.

To illustrate his negative depiction of society, Hawthorne describes the “black flower of civilization.” This metaphor compares society to an evil or dead plant, which indicates a condemnation of people.

Another metaphor that contrasts with the negative view of civilization comes in the description of the wild rose bush. The buds of the flowers are referred to as “delicate gems,” suggesting their beauty, fragility, and preciousness. When the narrator says that these blooms seem to pity a proverbial prisoner who might exit through the door, he suggests that nature is a kind, moral force in the world.

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