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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.

 
Hawthorne uses alliteration in the line, "Lastly, in lieu of these shifting scenes…"
 
Allusions
 
Antinomian. Antinomianism promotes the doctrine of sola fide, or "faith alone." This stems from the belief that the faithful are saved simply by their belief in God rather than their adherence to the Law of Moses (the laws governing the actions of Christians, as set forth in the Bible). Antinomianism was looked down upon by many prominent theologians and was considered heretical by the Council of Trent, a 16th Century ecumenical council that issued a number of degrees concerning heresies.
 
Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603). Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I reigned as Queen of England from 1558 - 1603, in which time England flourished both financially and artistically. Her reign has come to be known as the Elizabethan Era, during which William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe led a movement in English drama. Hawthorne's narrator describes Elizabeth as "man-like" in large part because...

(The entire section is 693 words.)