Scarlet Letter

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade May 2001

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Mistress Hibbins is the main part of mystery in The Scarlet Letter. Every time she was brought up in the story, it was one of the main characters was in a time of despair. She is somewhat described as evil, but her main function was to add mystery to this story. She seemed to know everything about all of the main characters, yet she had not been witness to any of the events.

Mistress Hibbins is introduced as the "bitter-tempered widow of the magistrate," and also as a witch (2). Right away in the story the reader gets the feeling that she is an evil, mysterious woman who is the outcast of the community. She plays a small part in the story, but is very important to the whole plot. I think that Hawthorne gives her little description to add the mystery effect. She only is seen around when either Hester or Dimmesdale is in a troubled situation.

The first time of her significance is just after Pearl has nearly been taken from Hester. She says to Hester,"will you go with me into the forest and sign thy name in the blackman's book (8)." She asks Hester this because she knows ,Hester too, is an outcast of the community and may side with her. Mistress Hibbins always seems to remain confident that one day Hester will go with her into the forest and sign her name in the book.

Mistress Hibbins seems to know both Hester's and Dimmesdale's innermost secrets. No one really knows how she knows, but they have the feeling that she does.

The next time we encounter her, she confronts Dimmesdale just after he has returned from the forest (20). She notes that he has returned from shady actions in the forest, but Dimmesdale lies to her and says he was returning from one of his companion's residence. He still has an awkward feeling that she knew what he really did.

The final time she is brought up is at the procession. Mistress Hibbins confronts Hester for the last time. Mistress Hibbins mentions the meeting between Hester and Dimmesdale in the forest, but Hester denies all of what she said. Hester, like Dimmesdale, has the intuition that Mistress Hibbins does know what they did in the forest.

She is the only character in the story that seemed to know about the meeting in the forest, yet she had not been witness to it. She says to Dimmesdale at their confrontation after he denies what she says, "Dost thou think I have been to the forest so many times, and have yet no skill to judge who else has been there?" She has no explanation for her knowledge of the occurrences, and that is what makes her so mysterious.