Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
Seemingly the entire city of Boston has gathered outside the prison. These Puritan men and women have come to judge Hester Prynne, the protagonist of the novel, who's on trial for adultery. Hester's crime was only discovered after the fact, when she bore a child despite the absence of her husband, whom everyone suspects to have been killed by Native Americans. Most of the audience appears to have already decided what they think about her. Some wish she had been branded with a hot poker. Others think the scarlet letter A sewn into her clothes is enough.
Hester steps out onto the scaffold carrying her three-month-old daughter, Pearl. Hester is described as a tall, beautiful woman with flowing hair and enormous vitality. She's also a talented seamstress, and the clothes she wears appear rich, even though she herself wouldn't be classed as such. In terms of appearance, Hester reminds the narrator of the Virgin Mary. These Puritans, however, gaze upon her with an utter lack of sympathy. While standing before these people, Hester thinks of her past in England and of her life up to this moment. She can hardly believe what's happening.