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Chapter 2-The Market-Place
The chapter begins with the narrator setting up the story. In these first few paragraphs we can see the dislike Hawthorne has for the disdainful practices of the Puritains. From here he moves to the beginning of the story line, where we see many people scattered about a scaffold. The main focus is several women that speak their minds on the current situation. We discover that our main character, Hester, is about to accept punishment for her awful deed. With phrases such as “hussy”, “ought to die” and “put the brand of hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead” we get an insight on how these women think of Hester and her crime. The direct dialogue enhances the feeling not only by bringing the reader back to the era but it also expresses the nastiness and disgust that the women feel.
Next, we get our first look at Hester. The jail door swings open and there is “a black shadow emerging into the sunlight.” Hester exits the building and in her arms she bears a child. She clenches it against her chest but then removes it. She thinks “one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another.” Thus revealed Hester Prynne’s violation---Adultery! The other object she speaks of, is the “A” that is fantastically sewn on the bosom of her garments. The next few paragraphs take the time to describe how beautiful Hester is and how well she had fancied the “A” up with dazzling gold thread and fine red cloth. This scene shows irony because the Puritains looked down on Hester for her bad deed but they illustrated her and her symbol with dignity. The author even describes her as the Divine Maternity. Hester must have made the “A” so glamorous to try and hide her shame. She was “laughing with them”.
From here we see the slow move from the prison door to the top of the scaffold. Hawthorne takes an extended amount of time here to show how the Puritains tried to put one through such treachery. The whole town was in attendance to see Hester stand atop the scaffold and pay homage for her shame.
Previously, we had seen a teeter-totter from narration to dialogue. Now Hawthorne takes over to show the past. Since Hawthorne is telling us a story as if he had picked us up and gently set us on his knee we know that he has insight to the whole story. Through his narration we see Hester’s thoughts. Thus, this is where he tells us about Hester’s whole escapade before she was sent to the prison. From her childhood years to meeting and marrying her husband you can feel the sorrow in her thoughts. And in the last paragraphs we can see that Hester is having second thoughts about what she has done. “Could it be true,” she says. Then she realizes that that was her reality and that she would have to accept it because “all else had vanished” meaning that her life has changed and there was no going back!