The Scarlet Letter

How does Hawthorne enlist the reader's sympathy for Hester?

Ch. 2: The Market-Place

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You really have to feel for poor Hester in the marketplace. Hester is led through the crowd to the scaffold of the pillory. She ascends the stairs and stands, now fully revealed to the crowd, in her position of shame and punishment for the next few hours. THe irony is that Hester is one of the most pure of motive and dignity in the town. Hawthorne compares her beauty and elegance while on the scaffold to an image of Madonna and Child, or Divine Maternity.

The ordeal is strenuous and difficult for Hester. She tries to make the images in front of her vanish by thinking about her past. Hester was born in England and grew up there. Hester looks out over the crowd and realizes for the first time that her life condemns her to be alone.