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Pearl in Chapter 2 -"The Market-Place

In "Hawthorne and 'the sphere of ordinary womanhood,'" Ponder also looks at the experiences of Hawthorne's mother and how they influenced his shaping of Hester's character.

Part of the powerful intensity of The Scarlet Letter comes from Hawthorne's almost uncanny portrayal of the strength and waste of Hester's deep love for a man and for her child, a portrayal that no doubt draws on his relationships with two women-his mother and Margaret Fuller. Gripped by powerful emotions at the time of his mother's death, he dramatized a life in some ways like hers. Her first child, Ebe, had been conceived when she was unmarried, several months before her marriage to Hawthorne's father. Like Hester, she had observed society, Salem, from the outside; impoverished by widowhood, she was unable to participate in the social life around her, withdrawing to Maine where she had more control over her daily life in a house built for her and her children. It was there that Hawthorne had played as a boy by a brook, Dingley Brook, and sadly observed to his sister in a letter that his mother had begun to wear a "cap" just as Hester hides her beauty until the Brook scene. As Nina Baym suggests, "What one senses here--though how opaquely!--is Hawthorne's tentative engagement with the subject of men and their mothers, his suggestion that the relation between men and their mothers was the deepest and most central core of their lives. The great liberation of The Scarlet Letter comes not only from its celebration of a woman, but of a woman who is centrally a mother" (75).



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