The narrator is telling a two-hundred year old story that is taken from an old manuscript found in the attic of the Salem Custom House. Discuss the importance of this. Why does Hawthorne use the narrator's "framing story" to prefeace this novel rather than just telling the story as-is? Why do you believe the events of this story are set in such distant history?
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The setting of the story in a Puritan town is especially important to our understanding of how Hester is treated and the ways in which the people abuse her. Her punishment and the desire of the townspeople to punish her as well as her desire to protect the father of herchild is more dramatic in the Puritan society than it would be in Hawthorne's own century.