Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 15

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 15

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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