What does the reader learn about Hester's childhood?The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Almost nothing is known of Hester Prynne's childhood.  The only history that the reader learns of Hester is the time period during which she was married to Roger Chillingworth. In Chapter 4 of The Scarlet Letter in which Chillingworth, who has seen her on the scaffold, comes to administer to her distraught child.  While they are in private, her husband talks with Hester of the past.  He tells Hester that from the moment that they came down the church-steps together, he

"might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path!"

Hester is hurt by his remark and retorts,

"thou knowest that I was frank with thee.  I felt no love, nor feigned any."

Chillingworth, then, admits his folly in hoping that his heart was "a habitation large enough for many guests," and his love could compensate for Hester's lack. He tells her that they have wronged each other:

"Mine was the first wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay.....But, Hester, the man lives who has wronged us both!  Who is he?"

Probably only in her teens--"the child of honourable parents"--when she married Chillingworth, Hester sought true love after he became missing and lived with the Indians for years.

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