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The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter Chapter 15 Summary
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Hester and Pearl As Chillingworth returns to his task of gathering herbs, Hester watches him. Is she imagining the shadow following him? Can such an evil man actually heal anyone? Or will the herbs become poison, because his hatred ruins everything around him? Hester declares that she hates him, even if hatred is a sin. She can't believe she ever agreed to marry Chillingworth, and she actually gets kind of mad at him for convincing her that she'd be happy with him. In fact, she decides that he's done more wrong to her than she's done to him. All this time, Pearl has been entertaining herself by dressing up as a mermaid with a seaweed scarf, mantle, and headdress—and a seaweed "A" on her chest. Hester asks Pearl if she even knows that Hester's letter means. Yep—and the minister keeps his hand over his heart for the same reason. How does she know this? Pearl says that she's said everything she knows—but Chillingworth knows a lot more. Smart girl. Pearl takes her mother's hands, and Hester realizes that Pearl is growing up into kind of a nice girl. Maybe they can be friends now. As they stand there, Pearl asks her mother what the letter means and why Dimmesdale keeps his hand over his heart. But Hester can't tell her, even if it would make Pearl sympathetic. Instead, she does the knee-jerk adult thing of saying that there are some things kids should ask. As to why she wears the scarlet letter, she says, "I wear it for the sake of its gold thread" (15.26). That's the first time she's lied about it, and she can feel the evil creeping in. Like any kid told not to ask questions, Pearl… continues to ask questions, until Hester finally snaps at her.
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