As the narrative begins, why has a throng gathered in the market place?Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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With one of his motifs the sanctimonious hypocrisy and the religious stringency of the Puritans, Hawthorne immediately creates a scene descriptive of these characteristics in Chapter 1 of The Scarlet Letter.  The Puritans are dressed in "sad-colored" garments and "grey steeple-crowned hats" interspersed with women who wears hoods, assembled before the heavy door with iron spikes.  And, it is with irony that Hawthorne mentions that the first action of these Puritans who came to America for religious freedom is to build a prison as fast as they have built a burial ground: 

The rust on the ponderous iron-work of its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New World.

Again, it is ironic that these people who have sought new shores for personal freedoms, should stand and wait to see one whom they have imprisoned.  And, as they wait, many make caustic remarks about the prisoner; others anticipate their delight in the prisoner's punishments.  Certainly, their remarks are cruel.