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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hester is upset after the captain of the...

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cknutson4 | eNoter

Posted October 3, 2013 at 11:50 AM via web

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hester is upset after the captain of the ship tells her which of the following:

a. their trip will be delayed.

b. Chillingworth will be joining them on the ship.

c. he cannot take them away.

d. Dimmesdale has backed out of the trip.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 3, 2013 at 2:24 PM (Answer #1)

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is set in Puritan New England and follows a woman named Hester Prynne after she has had an adulterous affair with, we eventually find out, the pious minister of the town, Arthur Dimmesdale.

Dimmesadale has been wracked with guilt and is almost a broken man when Hester waits for him in the forest and they make a plan to leave the country together with their daughter, Pearl. Hester is the one who books their passage on the ship; Dimmesdale refused to leave before he gave the Election Day sermon, and today is the day. The ship will leave soon after the sermon, and they will leave to begin a new life together.

In chapter twenty-one, Hester learns some devastating news, though it does not seem awful to the ship's captain. He happily tells her they will not have to worry about sickness or disease on their voyage, since they will have a doctor on board. Hester's heart sinks, but she asks about the new passenger.

"Why, know you not," cried the shipmaster, "that this physician here--Chillingworth, he calls himself--is minded to try my cabin-fare with you? Ay, ay, you must have known it; for he tells me he is of your party, and a close friend to the gentleman you spoke of,--he that is in peril from these sour old Puritan rulers!"

Hester remains calm on the outside, but inside she is suffering great "consternation."

So, the ship has not been delayed, the captain has not canceled the trip, and Dimmesdale has not refused to go, though he will certainly do that later. What the ship's captain tells her is B, that Roger Chillingworth will be joining them on the ship.

Hester sees Chillingworth watching her as she gets the news, smiling in such a way that she is terrified. Now she knows their new life will not really be an escape from guilt and a fresh start as they had hoped it would be. 

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