Chapter 3 Notes from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 3

Still on display in the Town Square, Hester notices, at the edge of the crowd, a man with one shoulder higher than the other standing with a Native-American. "When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips." Chapter 3, pg. 57.

The man, who later identifies himself as Roger Chillingworth, then approaches a townsman to ask what crime Hester has committed. The man explains to Chillingworth that Hester is guilty of Adultery, but, although the sentence for such a crime is death, she has not been condemned to such a harsh sentence.

There are two main reasons for this. First of all, she refuses to identify the man with whom she committed this crime. Secondly, she came to this country alone, leaving her much-respected husband to study in Amsterdam, and nothing has been heard of him since. Many assume that he drowned on his voyage across the Atlantic. This assumption, along with the knowledge that she is good-looking, and was therefore more susceptible to this type of sin, caused the magistrates to give her a light sentence. Chillingworth, without revealing his identity in any way, comments that the decision not to kill Hester was a wise one. He also repeats, three times, "he will be known." Chapter 3, pg. 59, indicating that he intends to uncover the secret of the man who committed this crime with Hester. Meanwhile, Hester does not take her eyes from Chillingworth, whom she is glad she first encounters among a crowd. She thinks to herself that she would be afraid to meet him alone.

The day continues with Governor Bellingham, the governor of the Massachusetts Colony during this period, speaking to Hester from a high balcony overlooking the town square. He begins by gesturing to a pale young man who is sitting beside him. The young man is Hester's preacher, Reverend Dimmesdale. He asks Reverend Dimmesdale to make Hester tell the crowd who her partner in this crime was. After a pause, Dimmesdale rises and makes an impassioned speech begging Hester to name her partner. At the end of the speech, which is very dramatic and moving, Hester's daughter reaches her arms towards the preacher and murmurs in response to his speech. The Reverend Wilson, another local clergy man, asks Hester to name the man as well, and therefore be allowed to take the Scarlet Letter off her breast. Still, Hester refuses to name him "'Never!' Replied Hester Prynne, looking not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman [Dimmesdale]. 'It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!'" Chapter 3, pg. 64.

At the appointed time, Hester returns to her jail cell. Some townspeople who watch her enter the darkness of the jail claim that the Scarlet Letter glows in the dark.

Topic Tracking: Burning 2
Topic Tracking: Truth 1

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