The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In Chapters 1-4, what can you interpret about Hester's family background?

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We do not find out much about Hester's background, a fact that speaks volumes in and of itself. We do know from Chapters 3 and 4 that Hester married a much older Englishman. They had been living together in Amsterdam, and he (Chillingworth) sent Hester ahead of him to Boston. We also realize that Hester and Chillingworth's marriage was not one of love or passion. Theirs seems to be one of convenience or necessity instead. Though this information doesn't provide us with a concrete view of Hester's family background, we can infer that they were perhaps middle to lower class socially, and we may even suppose that they have passed away. Regardless, Hester seems to have little to no connection with her family apart from Chillingworth, who asks her not to reveal his identity to anyone else.

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