In the two introductory chapters from “The Scarlet Letter”, Hawthorne managed to establish a distinction between the harsh severity and darkness of the Puritans and the beauty and exuberance of the protagonist, Hester Prynne. Hawthorne used contradicting symbols to depict the heathenish Puritan past by establishing a bleak contrast between the prison door and the sunshine, the weeds and the wild rose, and between the behavior and description of the Puritan women and the behavior and description of Hester Prynne.
First the door of a prison which was also referred as the “black flower of human society” was covered with “heavily timbered with oak and studded with iron spikes.” (39) Just from that description of the prison door marked a dark and ominous aspect to its gloomy front. Whereas Hawthorne referred the gentle summer “sunshine” contradicting the evil; it symbolized happiness, security, and God’s love. Hawthorne used this symbolism to express his own opinion on the hypocritical Puritan society. He described the hidden description of the Puritan society; even though it was considered a Utopia as “sunshine” shining upon the community, the society was actually corrupted and tainted by rust just like the prison door.
Adding to the ugly edifice where the prison was located at, there was a grass-plot “overgrown with burdock, pig-weed, apple-peru and such unsightly vegetation.” (39) Hawthorne paralleled the symbolism of weeds to that of the hypocritical Puritan society. In contrary, the wild rose bush had been kept alive out of the “stern old wilderness.” (40) Hawthorne seemed to symbolize the wild rose bush as the protagonist Hester Prynne who essentially has to live her life as an individual in the “stern old wilderness,” over Puritan’s conformity.
Finally, Hawthorne contrasted between the behavior and description of the Puritan woman to the behavior and description of Hester Prynne to once again depict the hypocritical and stern Puritan society....