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Ch.13 – Another View of Hester. Identity is an important thematic topic in this chapter. H feels her soul is committed to D in an “iron link of mutual crime, which neither he nor she could break.” ( p. 156 / p.166 ) They are bound by mutual sin and are united in their common humanity.

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ch 13 another view of hester
Ch.13 – Another View of Hester
  • Identity is an important thematic topic in this chapter.
  • H feels her soul is committed to D in an “iron link of mutual crime, which neither he nor she could break.” (p. 156/p.166) They are bound by mutual sin and are united in their common humanity.
  • Change in Hester’s appearance: she has lost her gleam. “…There seemed to be no longer anything in Hester’s face for Love to dwell on; nothing in Hester’s form, though majestic and statue-like, that Passion would ever dream of clasping in its embrace; nothing in Hester’s bosom, to make it ever agin the pillow of Affection.” (p.160/p.170) The narrator blames this on having lived through a severe experience.
ch 13 another view of hester1
Ch.13 – Another View of Hester
  • The A has taken on new meaning with the townspeople. A means Able. They call it a badge of honor.
  • Hester is compared to a nun, the letter to a cross upon her chest. She helps the sick without asking for compensation; she brings food and clothes to the poor despite the way they treat her.
  • The townspeople think she does this because their punishment is working; the scarlet letter has succeeded in humbling her into this charitable behavior. However, the narrator tells us that Hester has become unwomanly, cold, and uncommunicative.
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Ch.13 – Another View of Hester
  • The letter has not led her to contemplate her own sin and salvation; rather it has led her to unholy speculations – thoughts of suicide and infanticide, musings over the unfair lot of women.
  • “All the light and graceful foliage of her character had been withered up by this red-hot brand, and had long ago fallen away, leaving a bare and harsh outline, which might have been repulsive, has she possessed friends or companions to be repelled by it.” (p.159/p.169)
  • “The scarlet letter had not done its office.” (p.163/p.173)
ch 14 hester and the physician
Ch.14 – Hester and the Physician
  • Hester decides that she has done D a disservice by choosing to save his reputation and not tell who RC is. She meets with RC to explain that she will reveal his secret.
  • H believes the magistrates cannot judge her and cannot remove the letter. The mark “would fall away of its own nature, or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport” (p.165/p.176) if she were worthy to take it off.
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Ch.14 – Hester and the Physician
  • RC’s appearance has changed (just as Hester’s has) because of what he has been doing for the past seven years. “…Old Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of a man’s faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only , for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil’s office.” (p.166/p.177)
  • H says, “And I [pity] thee for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man to a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee and be once more human?” (p.170/p.181)
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Ch.14 – Hester and the Physician
  • RC tells her that he believes his fate is to torture D just as H’s fate was to have the affair. (This is PURITAN thinking – predestination and faith is elevated above good intentions and deeds.)
  • Black flower metaphor (p.171/p.181): Hester “plant[ed] the germ of evil” and they should “let the black flower blossom as it may.” Black flower = fate.
ch 15 hester and pearl
Ch.15 – Hester and Pearl
  • RC walks away and H wonders if “the tender grass of early spring would not be blighted beneath him” or whether he would “sink into the earth, leaving a barren and blasted spot” for poisonous weeds to grow in. (p.171-2/p.182-3)
  • Pearl creates an A on her chest made of eelgrass and questions her mother about the letter. She has made the connection between the letter on her mother and the minister’s ailment (both on the chest). She intuitively understands there is a link between the three of them.
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Ch.15 – Hester and Pearl
  • H begins to wonder if Pearl is old enough to be trusted with the secret but decides against it.
  • H begins to think of Pearl as not just “a design of justice and retribution,” but also a “purpose of mercy and beneficence” who could “soothe away the sorrow that lay cold in her mother’s heart.” (p.176-7/p.188-9)
motif forest wilderness
Motif – Forest/Wilderness
  • Motif – recurrent images, words, objects, phrases or actions that tend to unify the work. (for example: night and day in Romeo and Juliet)
  • To the Puritans, the forest represented the unknown and therefore, evil. (Native Americans, scary creatures, lawlessness)
  • The narrator associates Nature with kindness and love from the very beginning of the story when the rosebush reminds him all that “the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him.” (p.46/p.50)
motif forest wilderness1
Motif – Forest/Wilderness
  • In the forest, society’s rules do not apply, and alternate identities can be assumed.
  • Life in town = surface, appearance, rules
  • Life in the woods = depth and emotion
  • Hester’s home (on the edge of the wilderness) embodies both concepts: her place of exile, which ties it to the authoritarian town, but because it lies apart from the settlement, it is a place where she can create for herself a life of relative peace.