Custom House Chapter 1 Summary

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Custom House: The story takes place in Massachusetts during the late seventeenth century.
Chapter 1: The setting of the story takes place in a colony of the New World called Boston. It appears that a lot of description is put into the jail as well. The legend that accounts for the existence of the rose bush is that it sprung up from the footsteps of Ann Hutchinson as she entered the prison. Hawthorne begins the story with a reflection about the need for a cemetery and a prison because he likely wanted to illustrate the amount of deaths caused by the harsh environment of the New World while also emphasizing the fact that the Puritans had very strict rules in order to create a “Utopia of human virtue and happiness” (33). Hawthorne may also
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The comments suggest that society had little mercy and space for people who broke the system of Puritan beliefs and also highlights the brutal and merciless nature of the women of the colony. Hence, society was very strict. Hester’s punishment is to face public humiliation on the scaffold of the pillory for three hours, and to wear the scarlet-colored “A” for the remainder of her life. What is surprising about the “A” is that it was “fantastically embroidered in gold” (41), and thus, was relatively fancy and made her stand out. This indicates that society did not like to tolerate the rich as society appeared to be jealous of her letter A, which may also suggest that Puritan society was rather simple and plain. Hawthorne’s allusion to the Madonna and Child effectively likens Hester to Mary and Hester’s baby to baby Jesus. By portraying Hester as a good person, Hawthorne likely is suggesting that she is a good person because she is good-looking on the outside. The flashback reveals that she used to live in Old England, that she was very poor, that she had caring parents, and that she later moved to the New World. While standing on the scaffold, she sees her old village in Old England, her poverty, her caring parents, and her move to the New World.
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