Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473
Hester is upset by the minister's deteriorating health. She feels she must get close to him, but must be careful about it. Her situation is very different now than it was when she was first branded with the scarlet letter. It has been seven years, and the Puritans are much kinder to her than they used to be. As the narrator says, the human heart "loves more readily than it hates."
Hester's new, virtuous life has charmed the Puritans. She has suffered bravely without complaining, and they respect that. In fact, she does so much good work that some people refuse to believe the A stands for adultery. Others are slower to change their opinions (such as the magistrates and wealthy men of Boston). Hester herself seems stripped of her vitality. Her rich, luxuriant hair is hidden. Her clothes are plain. Consequently, she seems cold and passionless (prized qualities amongst Puritans, in those days). If not for Pearl, the narrator says, Hester might've been like Anne Hutchinson—the leader of a religious sect.
Hester has spent the last seven years ruminating on the nature of existence and what it means to be a woman in a puritanical society. When she sees Reverend Dimmesdale on the scaffold, she lets go of that train of thought. Dimmesdale needs her help. She decides to confront Chillingworth.
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