How do the townspeople feel about Hester in the chapters 9-15?Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Hester does not greatly figure into Chapters 9-11 of "The Scarlet Letter" in which most of the narration is focused upon the Reverend Dimmesdale, she has become accepted by her Puritan society as one upon whom they can rely as a seamstress and nurse. In fact, Hester has been so helpful that her scarlet "A" is now interpreted as meaning "Able."  Nevertheless, in true to their Puritan canon, no one is redeemed by good works, so Hester remains a pariah--"The links that uniter her to the rest of human kind...had all been broken." (Ch. 13) and is given menial tasks to perform and is still subjected to insults. For instance, when Mistress Hibbins espies her leaving the Bellingham mansion one day, she calls out,

'Hist, hist!' said she, ....'Wilt thou go with us tonight?  There will be a merry company in the forest; and I wellnigh promised the Black Man that comely Hester Prynne should make one.'

Having lost her beauty and youthful appearance, Hester yet lives on the outskirts of the village and she is never commissioned to sew anything for weddings.  And, while she accepts the guilt attached to her sin, her isolation has caused her to contemplate the role of women in her community.  Hawthorne writes that if the "forefathers" had known her "freedom of speculation," they would have held it "to be a deadlier crime than that stigmatized the the sacrlet letter." 

Hester realizes in Chapter 13 that the "world was hostile."  She is cognizant that

As a first step, the whole system of society is to be torn down, and built up anew.  Then, the very nature of the opposite to be essentially modified, before woman can be allowed to assume what seems a fair and suitable position.

In Chapter 12, Hester returns from the deathbed of one of the community and is on her way home to make a shroud for the good Puritan when she and Pearl hear strange sounds coming from the scaffold. Stopping she recognizes the Reverend Dimmesdale and talks with him, resolving to comfort him, for in contrast to Dimmesdale, her hardships have made her stronger.  Her caring nature, for both her child and her former lover, is what determines Hester's actions.  In Chapter 14 she challenges Roger Chillingworth to pardon Dimmesdale.

whittyjo | Student

Where had Roger learned his profession?

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The Scarlet Letter

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