What clues to the identity of the stranger does Hawthorne provide in the first three paragraphs of Chapter 3 in "The Scarlet Letter"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of the Chapter 2, the author has provided a description of a man, assumedly her husband, who took Hester Prynne from her home in England to "a new life...(in) a Continental city".  The man, whom Hester is remembering as she stands on the scaffold, is a scholar, "well stricken in years, pale, thin (and)...slightly deformed, with the left shoulder a trifle higher than the right". 

In the first three paragraphs of Chapter 3, the author makes it clear that the white man Hester sees standing "on the outskirts of the crowd" with an Indian is her husband, from whom she has been separated for good span of time.  Hester notices that "one of this man's shoulders (rises) higher than the other", and she is so unnerved at this recognition that "she press(es) her infant to her bosom with so convulsive a force that the poor babe utter(s) (a) cry of pain".  The stranger also reacts strongly upon seeing Hester, "a writhing horror twist(s) itself across his features (and)...his face darken(s) with some powerful emotion"; the woman he has come upon, standing in disgrace before the crowd for bearing a child out of wedlock, is his wife.  When the stranger perceives that Hester recognizes him, he gestures to her to remain silent by surreptitiously raising his finger and laying it on his lips.

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The Scarlet Letter

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