Pearl is seven now, so she’s at peak cheekiness. Since Pearl was born, Hester has devoted her life to charity: she brings food and clothing to the poor even though she is poor herself, she nurses the sick back to health even if they continue to call her a hussy, she never fights or asks for sympathy. In fact,
Such helpfulness was found in her,—so much power to do, and power to sympathize,—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.
I think I just felt my ovaries high-five each other.
The thing is, Hester doesn’t care what the town thinks. She’s really come into her own at this point and I’m proud of her. I mean, you try dealing with a kid, a career, a steady flow of condescension from the patriarchy, a secret husband with malice in his heart, a lover who’s slowly crumpling from the inside out, and the vague but constant threat of being burned at the stake all at once.
In her solitude over the years, she’s had a lot of time to think about how to singlehandedly destroy the patriarchy. I mean not actually, but pretty close. She’s taking “quiet and brooding” to a whole new level (if you are a Mia Thermopolis on the outside but a Carl Sagan on the inside, this one’s for you):
It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society… So it seemed to be with Hester.
This seems like a good time to deliver Six Direct Quotes That Are Also Statements About Being a Woman in Today’s Society:
“Everything was against her. The world was hostile.” > Mhm.
“Her matronly frame was trodden under all men’s feet.”> This is from a previous chapter but I needed to bring it up again because: mhm.
“As a first step, the whole system of society is to be torn down, and built up anew. Then, the very nature of the opposite sex, or its long hereditary habit, which has become like nature, is to be essentially modified, before woman can be allowed to assume what seems a fair and suitable position.” > Why has this yet to happen 150 years after it was written tho?
“At times, a fearful doubt strove to possess her soul.” > How I feel when I can sense someone is about to mansplain.
“There was wild and ghastly scenery all around her, and a home and comfort nowhere.” > How I feel while being mansplained to.
“She discerns, it may be, a hopeless task before her.”> How I feel when I try to explain to said person the way in which they are mansplaining.
Anyway. Hester is angry at Chillingworth for being a royal pain the butt to everyone, especially Dimmesdale. Fortunately, the last seven years have hardened her in the best way possible: she feels “no longer so inadequate to cope with Roger Chillingworth” because she knows he’s stooped several leagues below her level with his revenge plot.
She adds to her planner, -Meet w/ Roger, strike power pose and tell him to back off Dimmesdale or face the wrath of a witch with an agenda.
Chapter 14: Hester and the Physician
The length of chapter feels unnecessary, so I’ll paraphrase:
Hester: You’re stressing me out Chillingworth: Yes Hester: Can you please cut it out with the long-con on Dimmesdale Chillingworth: No Hester: If you don’t tell him, I will Chillingworth: Whatever I’m 80% sure the devil has consumed my soul Hester: What? Chillingworth: Nothing
Hester resolves to give Dimmesdale a heads up, but I feel it’s a little late for this.
Chapter 15: Hester and Pearl
While Hester and Chillingworth are chatting, Pearl occupies herself with things like laying jellyfish out to melt in the sun and displaying “remarkable dexterity” in pelting birds with her apron full of pebbles.
Later, when she’s making herself a scarf out of seaweed, she decides to use some extra bits to fashion a small green A in the hopes that she will get a reaction out of her mother.
The rest of the chapter is H’s inner monologue—does Pearl actually know the meaning of the scarlet letter? Does she know Dimmesdale is her father? If she’s bluffing, should Hester tell her? Can I get a game theorist over here?
I feel like I need to go on a Hemingway cleanse.
Join me next time to find out if Pearl goes to purgatory for throwing pebbles at innocent seagulls, and also other things.
Find the next chapter and every installment of Blogging Scarlet Letter HERE, and an index of all our Blogging the Classics titles HERE.