In The Scarlet Letter, why is the opening scene important, what does it set up, or how does it add to the rest of the novel?

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The opening scene—even the opening paragraph of the story—helps to establish the mood and make clear Hawthorne's feelings regarding the Puritans and their brand of "justice." The narrator says,

A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments, and gray steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, [. . .] was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.

To describe their clothing as sad-colored gives us a clue as to the general nature of these individuals; there is little liveliness about them—so little, in fact, that even their clothing seems sad. Furthermore, their hats are compared to the steeples of churches, signaling how incredibly important religion—a very specific set of religious beliefs—informs everything they do.

Women are hardly mentioned, as women were not generally considered to be very important (at least not in society), and a great deal of focus is placed on the door to the prison. It is made...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 653 words.)

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