Do you have a good quote from the first chapter you can explain?

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here is one of my favorite quotations from the entire book because of it's symbolism:

But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him.

On the one hand, this quote describing the rose bush next to the prison is rich with luscious literary devices that tantalize the reader. The author figuratively describes the roses as of great value by calling them "gems". These roses' abilities to offer the sensory details of sight and smell through "fragile beauty" and "fragrance" make us know they are not ordinary but meant for someone special, maybe even a person of great value. The idea that the bush is couched next to the door of a prison cell presents great paradox because the good and evil just don't mix, except for the one feature of a rose that pricks us all, the thorn. Finally the personification of Nature, as if it could have the emotion of feeling sorry for a criminal or extending kindness gives the bush status of almost a character in the story. Tying all of these ideas together leads me to believe the rose bush is a symbol of something, but I might not know what until later.

On the other hand, it displays so much of the story to come that a reader must sit with a longing wonder as to what the story is going to be about. A reader wonders at the crime that one must commit to earn this punishment. A reader wonders why the room might be so close to the cemetery. A reader wonders if a person who enters this room might have the value of the rose bush or the ability to hurt like a rose proving that appearances are and can be deceiving.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

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