In "Anne Hutchinson and Hester Prynne" (89), Johnson parallels the church's
inquisition of Anne Hutchinson about her religious beliefs to Reverend Wilson's
questioning of Hester. Ironically, the Puritans didn't kill Anne Hutchinson,
but Indians massacred her and her family in New York where she had sought sanctuary.
(courtesy of Greenwood Press).
[NOTE: Numbers in parentheses in Johnson's text refer to the Signet Classic edition
of The Scarlet Letter (1959) ]
"The Church Trial for Heresy
On March 15, 1638, in a Boston church packed with unsympathetic outsiders who
were not members of her church, Anne Hutchinson was subjected to a gruelling
daylong inquisition, much of it conducted by her once adored minister, John
Cotton, and closely observed by the Reverend Wilson. The transcript might well
remind the reader of the early scenes of The Scarlet Letter when the
Reverend Dimmesdale questions his former lover at the order of the same John
Immediately after this inquisition at the Boston church, Anne Hutchinson left for Rhode Island, where her husband had found sanctuary; but even here she still did not feet safe from the zealous leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, despite the presence of many friends and supporters. She in fact had good reason to worry. Her sons' property in Massachusetts was seized; spies were sent to Rhode Island to report on her activities; and Massachusetts authorities continually threatened to try to take over Rhode Island, with the intent of bringing Anne Hutchinson back to Boston for retrial and further punishment. Whether she was actually in danger is not clear, but she did fear for her own and her family's lives. Several years later, she and what was left of her family (her husband had died) moved to what they thought would be a safer place: Rye, New York. In August 1643, Anne Hutchinson and all but one member of her extended family were killed in an Indian raid on the settlement where she lived."