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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 15: Hester And Pearl

Summary

As Hester leaves Chillingworth, she reflects on her past relationship with him and concludes that he has wronged her more than she wronged him. He should never have convinced an innocent, young girl to marry him in his old age. Even though she knows it is a sin, she states that she hates him.

The chapter then switches to a description of Pearl, who plays on the beach while her mother visits with Chillingworth. Pearl adorns herself with seaweed and uses it to form a green letter "A," which she proudly wears on her chest, in imitation of her mother. When Hester notices it, she asks Pearl if she knows what her scarlet "A" means. Pearl, once again wise beyond her years, states that her mother wears the scarlet letter for the same reason that Dimmesdale always holds his heart; but Pearl demands three times to know the meaning of the scarlet "A" and why the minister keeps his hand on his heart. When the child is not given an answer to the questions, she pesters Hester about the questions for the rest of the day. Hester threatens to lock Pearl in a closet if she does not quit badgering her.


Notes

This chapter solidifies Hester's feelings about her husband. She concludes that she has been greatly wronged by him and holds him solely responsible for all the problems and degradation in her life. She calls it sinful for an old man to convince a young girl to marry him. She also admits that, even though it is a sin, she hates him. Ironically, such feelings are in contrast to the pity she felt for him in the preceding chapter.

Pearl's playfulness is discussed in detail, revealing a streak of cruelty, followed by remorse and kindness. Her creation and wearing of the green letter "A" symbolizes her innocent interpretation of her mother's scarlet letter. Hester, however, is bothered by the representation on her child's chest and wonders if Pearl knows the meaning. When she quizzes her daughter about it, Pearl wisely links the scarlet "A" with Dimmesdale holding his hand over his heart. But Hester refuses to explain the true meaning behind the letter to Pearl; instead, she lies about the scarlet "A" -- for the first time in seven years.

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