Scarlet letter chapter 5

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Chapter Five: Hester at Her Needle
Hester is released from prison and finds a cottage in the woods, near the outskirts of the city, to set up her new life. Hawthorne comments on the fact that she does not avail herself of the opportunity to escape to a new life without shame in some other city. He remarks that often people are irresistibly drawn to live near the place where a great has occurred. He further comments that even if that is not the reason, Hester may have been inclined to remain in Boston because her secret lover still lived there.
Hester's skill at needlework, earlier shown in the fine way that she displayed the scarlet letter, allows her to maintain a fairly stable lifestyle. However, her reputation as an outcast and loner causes a certain aura to be cast around her. Thus, Hawthorne points out that young children often crept up to her house to spy on her while she worked. He also comments that in spite of her excellent needlework, she was never called upon to make a bridal gown due to her reputation.
Hester spends her time working on the projects which bring in her income, and devotes the remainder of her work to creating garments for the poor. She lives simply with the sole exception being that she creates amazing dresses of fine fabrics for Pearl.
Hester's social life is virtually eliminated as a result of her shameful history. She is treated so poorly that often preachers will stop in the street and start to deliver a lecture as she walks by. Hester also begins to hate children, who unconsciously realize there is something different about her and thus start to follow her with "shrill cries" through the city streets.
One of the things which Hester starts to notice is that every once in a while she receives a sympathetic glance, and feels like she has a companion in her sin. Hawthorne puts it, "it gave her a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts." This is interesting because many of the people Hawthorne accuses of hypocrisy as regards the scarlet letter are, "a venerable minister or magistrate," people who are viewed as models of "piety and justice."
The fact that Hester stays in Boston is likely due to the fact that she is too ashamed to go anywhere else. With the humiliation of receiving the scarlet letter, her tenacity and will-power are destroyed, causing her ...

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...nister for support, and makes the other men aware that Dimmesdale knows Hester better than they thought. Dimmesdale steps forward with his hand over his heart, again hiding the scarlet letter which he feels upon his breast. This also ties back to Chillingworth's comment that he will recognize Pearl's true father by "reading" his heart. Dimmesdale then correctly compares Pearl to the scarlet letter upon her mother's bosom, and manages to keep the mother and daughter together.
Pearl's response is unique at this juncture, in that she takes the minister's hand and places her cheek against it. This simple gesture is full of meaning, because it implies that Pearl recognizes Dimmesdale as being connected to her. Dimmesdale responds by kissing her on the forehead, in a sense claiming her as his own child.
The scene in which Mistress Higgins invites Hester into the woods to meet the Black Man is important. It largely acts to foreshadow events, but also serves to make a statement about the woods. The forest is the wilderness around Boston, and thus is an amoral backdrop. Thus, when Hester meets with Dimmesdale later in the story, the meeting will also take place in the forest.
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