The Scarlet Letter

by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Mistress Hibbins

Characters Mistress Hibbins

Mistress Hibbins is based on the historical figure of Ann Hibbins, a prosperous Boston woman who was executed in 1656 after being found guilty of witchcraft. Ann Hibbins was the sister-in-law of Governor Bellingham, and Hawthorne preserves this relationship in the novel by describing her as his sister. Mistress Hibbins speaks with Hester as she and Pearl are leaving the Governor’s mansion, and invites her to come to the forest that night to dance with the Black Man. This invitation reflects popular beliefs about the behavior of witches. Presumably, Mistress Hibbins recognizes that Hester is isolated and alone and thinks she can tempt her into witchcraft. Hester, however, replies that because she still has her daughter, she is not interested in going in to the woods. The conversation between the two women seems to reflect different responses to being alienated. Mistress Hibbins, who is described as “bitter-tempered” and possessing “ill-omened physiognomy” chooses to embrace being excluded from society, and even revel in her outsider status. Hester, however, patiently endures her outcast status.