Hester has now completed her prison sentence and has been allowed to live anywhere she deems fit. However, she opts to settle within Boston in a tiny seaside cottage located on the suburbs. To support herself and her daughter, Hester begins to work as a seamstress. Her superb sewing skills make her products popular among fashionable women as well as those who desire elegant clothing for official ceremonies. However, she cannot sell wedding gowns.
Despite the high-quality clothes she sews, Hester is still a social outcast. She is viciously abused by the community but patiently endures it. Ironically, Hester begins to realize that her scarlet A enables her to sense the immoral and sinful impulses in other people.
Chapter 5 Analysis
Hester’s cottage is located between the wilderness and the town, physically separated from the community. Hawthorne builds Hester’s image portraying her as a social outcast punished for her transgressions as well as the product of nature.
She does not retaliate against society and stays relatively humble. However, she inwardly rebels and resents the savagery of the Puritans. Her skills remain in high demand despite being permanently banished from society. Those who condemn her the most are impressed by her skills but deem it a favor to have her sew their garments. This is evident in the fact that she cannot sew wedding clothes since she would defile the sanctity of the event.
However, Hester does not take pride in her work. She still views ornamentation as a sinful act. This shows that she rejects puritan hypocrisy but still adheres to some of its moral codes. We also notice the contrast between private and public discourse. Though the letter pours scorn on her, it also offers her a new personal sense of the sinful behaviors and thoughts in others.