The Scarlet Letter

What is Hester's reputation in Boston within and after Ch.13?

chapters 13-16

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At this point Hester is being held with increasing respect. She bears her penance with humility and performs kind acts for the poor. The townspeople find a sort of Christian suffering within Hester that they like. Hester becomes a symbol of transformation; she changes from hoer/heretic to pious charitable woman. Indeed, some people begin to suggest that the A stands for Able and that Hester is actually holy and misunderstood. Perhaps the townspeople see their own sins in Hester. They witness how Hester has publicly purged her sins away while they privately stew in their own wrongdoings.

Pearl is now seven years of age and Hester is no longer looked at contemptuously,for she in all humility offers help to the needy and poor.The letter ,a "badge of shame" now looses its initial connotation,instead of 'adulterous' it now signifies 'able'. Though the towns people have quite forgiven her for her trespasses - now considering her a "sister of mercy",the intransigent guardians of the puritan settlement take longer to relax their "sour and rigid wrinkles" .Here the "A" maybe regarded as a mythopoeic symbol ,for it resembles "the cross on a nun's bosom",and it also guards her not only against all "peril" but also an Indian's arrow.

Her self ordained penance had wrought " a sad transformation",apart from the physical transformation there seemed in her an intellectual transition,whereby she sought to set herself free from the shackles of"ancient prejudice" ,thus the narrator states "The world's law was no law for her mind". Examining her isolated existence discerning the difficulty in the reformation of society,questioning herself whether a fragile woman could battle a system where "religion and law were almost identical". At times speculating on the "dark question " with reference to the existence of her own race , she wandered clueless through "the dark labyrinth of mind",wondering if it would be better for both Pearl and her to seek release in an easy death.Ruminating over the futility of existence of womankind in a patriarchal society , Hester delves on the efficacy of the secret hidden deep in her bosom guiltily.

On seeing the plight of Reverend Mr Dimmesdale,who was on the "verge of lunacy" she decides" to redeem her error" and make amends to the nervous clergyman .Indeed, she now decided to approach her former husband.On meeting her former husband she is shocked to see how vengeance can transform an intelligent man.She asks him to release her from the pledge so that she might rescue the unfortunate ,miserable priest held in the fiendish clutches of the vile physician .She realizes that it is the black deed perpetrated that has led all the three of them into "this gloomy maze of evil".Permitting her to reveal the long hidden secret ,Chillingworth attends his work ,telling her to do what she deems right.