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This opening chapter of the main narrative introduces several of the images that will recur in several settings and serve as metaphors for the underlying conflict.
We get a close up view of the Prison which was the first building built in the village. In the manner that Hawthorne describes it, the prison embodies the unyielding severity of puritan law: old, rusted, yet strong with an "iron-clamped oaken door." Puritan law is coated, in this account, in the rust of tradition and obsolete purpose. But despite the evolution of society, the laws have not kept up. As a result, the door remains tightly shut and iron-clamped. It seems it will take a superhuman force to somehow weaken the mores that control the society in which our story will take place.