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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 13: Another View Of Hester

Summary

Hester is horrified at the change she sees in Dimmesdale's appearance and behavior. He is a shell of his former self; he looks tired and defeated, and he is extremely nervous. Hester resolves to help him in any way she can.

Hester has also changed over the last seven years. Her attitude to life and the peoples' attitude towards her are presented in this chapter. She has lived an austere and uncomplaining life, accepting her situation without malice towards anyone. Her liveliness and charm have been replaced by seriousness and practicality. Her beautiful hair is hidden under a cap. She has learned to ignore the humiliating remarks and looks of the townspeople and proudly go about her business. She renders selfless service to the poor, needy, and sick, without expecting anything in return. Her goodness is noticed by the people of Boston, who gradually begin to consider her scarlet letter as representing Able and not Adultery.

The chapter also shows Hester's genuine concern for Dimmesdale and Chillingworth's proximity to him. She worries about what the evil Chillingworth is secretly inflicting on him and about having kept Chillingworth's secret from the minister. She knows things are not good for Dimmesdale because of his physical appearance and behavior.


Pearl continues to be Hester's reason for existing. She loves the child dearly and cares for her with kindness and enthusiasm. Pearl, however, still gives her mother anxious moments, sometimes making her wonder if her daughter is really human. At times, Pearl's strange behavior confuses her so much that she momentarily contemplates suicide, an unpardonable sin to the Puritans. The thought is fleeting, for she knows that both Pearl and Dimmesdale need her. She decides to help Dimmesdale regain his health, and resolves to meet with Chillingworth as a first step. The opportunity comes her way when she encounters him one day collecting herbs.

Notes

The chapter narrates what has happened in Hester's life over a seven-year period. The detailed and lengthy descriptive passages, without dialogue or action, tend to be somewhat tedious.

Hester has lived an austere life void of complaints. She has provided for and taught Pearl, whose behavior still troubles her mother. Hester's helpful and selfless services point out her goodness and cause a change in attitude that others have about her. They now see her letter "A" as standing for Ability rather than Adultery. With typical kindness, Hester decides to help Dimmesdale and work to restore him to health.

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