Evil can be defined as, "That which is the reverse of good, physically or morally; whatever is censurable painful, disastrous, or undesirable." In the novel
"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mistriss Hibbins can also be defined in those terms. She is believed to be evil by many of the characters. Henry Louis Mencken once said, "It is a sin to believe evil of others, but is seldom a mistake." In this novel he was right, Mistriss Hibbins is evil. However, she is an important character who appears more often than most people realize and her evilness has a serious impact on most of the characters.
Mistriss Hibbins represents evil in the novel. She was accused of being a witch. This is a very evil thing in the eyes of the Puritans. Mistriss Hibbins can also be said to be evil simply because she is always in the forest, which is an evil place. She is said to go on "night rides" and attend witch meetings there. "And Mistriss Hibbins, with some twigs of the forest clinging to her skirts, and looking sourer than ever, as having hardly got a wink of sleep after her night ride."
The people in town are scared to even be near Mistriss Hibbins. At the last scaffold scene, "The crowd gave way before her, and seemed to fear the touch of her garment, as if it carried the plague among its gorgeous folds." Here, it says that the townspeople were so scared, that they thought her evil was contagious.
Mistriss Hibbins also effects the way some of the characters think in the novel. In one part of the novel, Mistriss Hibbins tells Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne, that Dimmesdale, who is her father, is the "Prince of Air". "They say, child, though art of the lineage of the Prince of Air!" In this quote she was telling Pearl that Dimmesdale is the devil. Pearl gets influenced by her and believes her father is the devil. In one scaffold scene, Pearl yells out, "Mistriss Hibbins says my father is the Prince of Air. If though callest me that ill-name, I shall tell him of thee, and he will chase thy ship with a tempest." This quote proves that she believes her father is evil by stating that he has the power to create storms.
Just before this conversation with Pearl, Mistriss Hibbins speaks to her mother, Hester. She tells her that Dimmesdale is not the man she thinks he is.
She tells her that he is evil. "Who, now, that saw him pass in the procession, would think how little while it is since he went forth out of his study - Chewing a Hebrew text of scripture in his mouth." Mistriss Hibbins tells Hester that she saw him chewing Hebrew text, which is a terrible sin for a minister. Also, she tells Hester that Dimmesdale wears the mark of the Black Man on his chest, and that is why he always has his hand over his heart. The two conversations that Mistriss Hibbins has with Pearl and Hester occur at the last scaffold scene.
Not only does Mistriss Hibbins affect Pearl and Hester, but she has an effect on Dimmesdale himself. She tries to make him think that he is evil, too. Dimmesdale does believe her because he is surprised he is even talking to her at all. "And his encounter with old Mistriss Hibbins, if it were a real incident, did but show its sympathy with wicked mortals, and the world of perverted spirits."
Dimmesdale, if he were a true minister, would not even want to stand anywhere near an evil person like Mistriss Hibbins.
Mistriss Hibbins is an important character because she appears in some
important scenes where characters express their emotions. She appears at the second scaffold scene where Dimmesdale admits to his sin. Mistriss Hibbins is one of the only people in the town to see and hear him. "This venerable witch-lady had heard Mr. Dimmesdale's outcry, and interpreted it, with its multitudinous echoes and reverberations, as the clamour of the fiends and nighthags, with whom she was well known to make excursions in the forest." Here Mistriss Hibbins gets more evidence that Dimmesdale is evil because his outcries sound like some evil creatures she knows.
Also, Mistriss Hibbins appears when Hester and Pearl are returning home after their visit with the Governor. She asked Hester if she would go with her to a meeting with the Devil in the forest. Hester responds by telling her that she
cannot go, but if the Governor had taken Pearl away, she would have went. "I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man's book too, and that with my blood." Pearl had saved her from becoming a witch. "Even thus early had the child saved her from Satan's snare."
In conclusion, Mistriss Hibbons is a very important character whose interactions which the characters in the book could very well have changed the outcome.