Does chapter 5 in The Scarlet Letter portray Hester as a sinner?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapter 5 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novelThe Scarlet Letter,shows us Hester leaving prison and beginning her life as an outcast, albeit, still living within the outskirts of the village. Hester offers her embroidering talent as a way to support herself, and Pearl. In fact, she is extremely talented,and even the well-to-do ladies ask for her services.

Nevertheless, Hester is still shunned by the people, and she still has to endure the occasional "smart" remark, or a direct insult. This, she would feel as if it were the first time. For Hester is never able to heal from the treatment she receives from the people.

Rather than a sinner, Hester wonders about the extent to which her actual indiscretion should be punishable. After all, she did not act alone. And, yet, she undergoes what seems to be an interminable martyrdom.

There is, however, something quite interesting about Hester that we discover in this chapter. It reveals the reason why Hester stays in the settlement, rather than going back to England. It is because, in the depths of Hester's heart, she still wishes that the dream of being married to Dimmesdale may come true.

There dwelt, there trode the feet of one with whom she deemed herself connected in a union, that, unrecognised on earth, would bring them together before the bar of final judgment, and make that their marriage-altar, for a joint futurity of endless retribution. [...] the tempter of souls had thrust this idea upon Hester's contemplation, and laughed at the passionate and desperate joy with which she seized, and then strove to cast it from her.

So, we can tell that Hester cannot be a sinner, as the indiscretion that she commits has nothing to do with lust, but with love. Moreover, she never commits this act thinking that her husband is alive. We can also see that she banishes these thoughts and moves away from them, however, she seems to have a tendency to revisit them more often than we think. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Hester is not a sinner, just a person that is way too driven by passion. She simply gets caught at the wrong time. And, still, she defends and hides the man who commits "the crime" with her.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial