Explain the following quote:
"The founders of a colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally protect, have invariably reconized it among their earliest pratical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin sail as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison."
As this quotation occurs on the opening page of the novel, it sets the tone for the work. First of all, the satire is evident. Puritan era Massachusettes is hardly a Utopia. What the Puritan community seeks is a society filled with virtue and morality in keeping with its strict Orthodox beliefs. What it has created is a society of hyperjudgmentalists and and a trail of nasty secrets.
Thus, the second part of the quotation provides a more realist view: the need for a prison and a cemetary. Ironically, if one is attempting to create a Utopia, it's odd that the first considerations are given to criminals and the dead.
The rest of the novel exposes the secrets and hypocrisy of the community which, again ironically, begins in a prison and ends in a cemetary.