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ClassicNote on The Scarlet Letter


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ClassicNote on The Scarlet Letter

A large crowd of Puritans stands outside of the prison, waiting for the door to open. The prison is described as a, 'wooden jailalready marked with weather-stains and other indications of age which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front.' The iron on the prison is rusting and creates an overall appearance of decay.

Outside of the building, next to the door, a rosebush stands in full bloom. Hawthorne remarks that it is possible, 'this rosebushhad sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Ann Hutchinson, as she entered the prison door.' He then plucks one of the roses and offers it to the reader as a 'moral blossom' to be found later in the story.


This opening chapter introduces several of the images and themes within the story to follow. These images will recur in several settings and serve as metaphors for the underlying conflict.

The prison represents several different symbols. Foremost it is a symbol for the Puritanical severity of law. The description of the prison indicates that it is old, rusted, yet strong with an 'iron-clamped oaken door.' This represents the rigorous enforcement of laws and the inability to break free of them.

The prison also serves as a metaphor for the authority of the regime, which will not tolerate deviance. Hawthorne directly challenges this notion by throwing the name Ann Hutchinson into the opening pages. Hutchinson was a religious woman who disagreed with the Puritanical teachings, and as a result was imprisoned in Boston. Hawthorne claims that it is possible the beautiful rosebush growing directly at the prison door sprang from her footsteps. This implies that the Puritanical authoritarianism may be too rigid, to the point of obliterating things of beauty.

The rosebush is a symbol of passion. As will later become obvious, Hester Prynne's sin is one of passion, thus linking her crime to the image of the rosebush. Hawthorne also indirectly compares Hester with Ann Hutchinson via the rosebush, and again makes the same parallel in Chapter 13, Another View of Hester.

Hawthorne cleverly links the rosebush to the wilderness surrounding Boston, commenting that the bush may be a remnant of the former forest which covered the area. This is important, because it is only in the forest wilderness where the Puritans' laws fail to have any force. Thus the image of the rosebush serves to foreshadow that some of the passionate wilderness, in the form of Hester Prynne, may have accidentally made its way into Boston.

The rosebush in full bloom indicates that Hester is at the peak of her passion. This parallels the fact that Hester has just born a child as a result of her passion. The child is thus comparable to the blossoms on the rosebush. Hawthorne's comment that the rose may serve as a 'moral blossom' in the story is therefore actually saying that Hester's child will serve to provide the moral of the story.

Chapter Two: The Market Place: The crowd in front of the jail is a mixture of men and women, all maintaining severe looks of disapproval. Several of the women begin to discuss Hester Prynne, and soon vow that Hester would not have received such a light sentence for her crime if they had been the judges. One woman, the ugliest of the group, goes so far as to advocate death for Hester.

Hester emerges from the prison with elegance and a lady-like air to her movements. She clutches her three month old daughter, Pearl. She has sown a large scarlet 'A' over her breast, using her finest skill to make the badge of shame appear to be a decoration. Several of the women are outraged when they see how she has chosen to display the letter, and want to rip it off.

Hester is led through the crowd to the scaffold of the pillory. She ascends the stairs and stands, now fully revealed to the crowd, in her position of shame and punishment for the next few hours. Hawthorne compares her beauty and elegance while on the scaffold to an image of Madonna and Child, or Divine Maternity.

The ordeal is strenuous and difficult for Hester. She tries to make the images in front of her vanish by thinking about her past. It is revealed that Hester was born in England and grew up there. She later met a scholar who is slightly deformed, having a left shoulder higher than his right. Her husband, later revealed to be Roger Chillingworth, took her first to Amsterdam, and then sent her to America to await his arrival.

Hester looks out over the crowd and realizes for the first time that her life condemns her to be alone. She looks at her daughter and then fingers the scarlet letter which will remain a part of her from now on. At the thought of her future, she squeezes her daughter so hard that the child cries out in pain.


The most prominent part of this chapter is the scarlet letter 'A' so brazenly sown onto Hester's clothing. The 'A' takes on many meaning during the course of the novel, and even in this scene it immediately means more than just 'adultery.' The fine stitchwork and gold thread create the perception that the letter is ornamental, or a decoration.

Making the 'A' into a thing of beauty offends many bystanders, who comment that, 'it were well if we stripped Madame Hester's rich gown off her dainty shoulders.' However, as one man observes, 'not a stitch in that embroidered letter, but she has felt it in her heart.'

The feeling of sympathy, only expressed by one of the characters throughout this scene, is used by Hawthorne to criticize the Puritans for their strictness. The society is too strict in its ways, and Hawthorne shows his contempt for the treatment of Hester by constantly reinforcing how cruelly the people talk about her.

This scene is the first of three scaffold scenes in the novel. In this scene Hester is forced to suffer alone, facing first her past and finally her present. The scene is clever in that it reveals Hester's past, as she was before receiving the infamous letter. It ends with her realization that she must now deal with the letter, 'these were her realities - all else had vanished.'

Chapter Three: The Recognition: On the edge of the crowd Hester notices an Indian accompanied by a white man. She recognizes the white man as Roger Chillingworth, her husband, who sent her to America and remained in Amsterdam. Hester fearfully clutches Pearl harder, and again causes her child to cry out in pain.

Roger Chillingworth asks a bystander who Hester is and what her crime was. The man informs him of her past, telling how she was sent to Boston to await her husband, and how she ended up with a child instead. Chillingworth remarks that the man who was her partner in the crime of adultery will eventually be known.

The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale is exhorted to make Hester tell the gathered crowd who the father is. She refuses and instead tells him that she will bear his shame as well as her own. Dimmesdale cries out, 'She will not speak!' and places his hand over his heart. The Reverend Mr. Wilson steps forward and delivers a sermon against sin, after which Hester is allowed to return to the prison.

Analysis: This chapter is largely ironic with respect to the various characters. For example, Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband, sent her to Boston to wait for him. But when he finally arrives, he discovers his wife has committed adultery.

There is also irony in the way Chillingworth chides Hester. When she first sees him at the edge of the crowd she impulsively reacts with fear. Later, Chillingworth chides her by shouting, 'Speak woman, speak and give your child a father!' The irony is that the child's father should have been Chillingworth.

A final irony is the fact that Dimmesdale, the actual father of Pearl, is forced to try and make Hester confess the name of her child's father. She responds by telling him that she will bear both his and her shame, and that her child will never know her earthly father. Dimmesdale then publicly admits defeat and ceases trying to make Hester tell him the name.

Dimmesdale places his hand over his heart in this scene. This gesture will reappear and grow in significance during the course of the novel. In this chapter it is meant to show his distress in failing to make Hester tell him who the father of Pearl is. However, this is also the gesture that Hester makes when remembering the scarlet letter. Hawthorne brilliantly connects Hester's openly displayed shame with Dimmesdale's secret shame by having both characters touch the spot where the scarlet letter is displayed.

The Indian standing at the edge of the crowd introduces the division between the stark Puritanical world and the wilderness beyond. Inside the city of Boston, the laws are upheld and morals are kept intact. Once in the forest the laws no longer pertain, and the Indian represents the savage and wild nature of the area outside of Boston. The Indian also foreshadows the dilemma facing Hester, who must find a way to simultaneously live with her immorality while also existing as part of the moral utopia within Boston.

Chapter Four: The Interview: After Hester returns to her prison cell, she remains agitated by the day's events. Pearl is also upset and starts crying. The jailer therefore allows a physician to enter and try to calm them down.

Roger Chillingworth, pretending to be a physician, enters and mixes a potion for Pearl, who soon falls asleep. He also makes a drink for Hester, who is afraid that he is trying to kill her. Nevertheless, she drinks his potion and sits down on the bed.

Chillingworth tells her that he forgives her, and accepts the blame for having married a girl younger than himself. He asks Hester who the father of Pearl is, but she refuses to tell him. Chillingworth then laughs and says, 'He bears no letter of infamy wrought into his garment, as thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.'

He then makes Hester swear to never reveal that he is her husband. She becomes afraid of Chillingworth's purpose, and asks whether he has forced her into a bond that will ruin her soul. He smiles and tells her, 'Not thy soulNo, not thine!'

Analysis: This chapter marks the second interrogation of Hester, and serves to foreshadow key moments of the novel. In addition, Roger Chillingworth's relationship to Hester, namely the fact that they are married, is revealed here.

There are two moments of foreshadowing during this chapter which require commentary. The first occurs when Chillingworth says, 'Thou wilt not reveal his name? Not the less is he mine. He bears no letter of infamy wrought into his garment, as thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.' The connection between the scarlet letter and the heart was already made in previous chapters, where Hester places her hand on the letter and Dimmesdale clutches his heart to hide his shame. Thus the reader can infer that his heart will somehow reveal Dimmesdale's secret. This does in fact occur, as a result of Chillingworth feeling Dimmesdale's heart while the reverend is sleeping.

The second moment of foreshadowing occurs in the last few sentences. Hester is afraid she has made a bond that will 'prove the ruin of [her] soul.' Chillingworth replies with, 'Not thy soulNo, not thine!' Obviously the reference is to Dimmesdale's soul. This prediction also appears later in the novel, with the death of Dimmesdale.

It is difficult to establish what motivates Roger Chillingworth to remain and seek revenge. He is an educated man with superb skills at medicine and literature. Why then would he choose to remain in Boston and attempt to destroy Dimmesdale?

There are few good explanations for Chillingworth's behavior and desire to not be known. The most likely reasons are either revenge or for the challenge of solving a mystery. The motive revenge rests on the fact that he failed to father a child with Hester, and after the scandal is unable to even claim her for a wife. Thus he seeks revenge on the true father for stealing his chance at a family. However, this explanation is faulty in several ways. He could just as easily wish to seek revenge on Hester for not staying true to him, or he could leave her and start a new family elsewhere.

As for the explanation that argues he is solving the mystery, Chillingworth's behavior is too sublimely cruel for that to be the only motivation. There exists no reason to solve the mystery and destroy Dimmesdale in the process if that is the only reason.

The lack of a direct motivation for Chillingworth has led at least one critic to call him a 'stock character.' I disagree with this definition, for it implies that there is no depth to his character. Chillingworth, like all of Hawthorne's main characters, is complex and difficult to see through, perhaps more than most.

Chapter Five: Hester at Her Needle: Hester is released from prison and finds a cottage in the woods, near the outskirts of the city, to set up her new life. Hawthorne comments on the fact that she does not avail herself of the opportunity to escape to a new life without shame in some other city. He remarks that often people are irresistibly drawn to live near the place where a great has occurred. He further comments that even if that is not the reason, Hester may have been inclined to remain in Boston because her secret lover still lived there.

Hester's skill at needlework, earlier shown in the fine way that she displayed the scarlet letter, allows her to maintain a fairly stable lifestyle. However, her reputation as an outcast and loner causes a certain aura to be cast around her. Thus, Hawthorne points out that young children often crept up to her house to spy on her while she worked. He also comments that in spite of her excellent needlework, she was never called upon to make a bridal gown due to her reputation.

Hester spends her time working on the projects which bring in her income, and devotes the remainder of her work to creating garments for the poor. She lives simply with the sole exception being that she creates amazing dresses of fine fabrics for Pearl.

Hester's social life is virtually eliminated as a result of her shameful history. She is treated so poorly that often preachers will stop in the street and start to deliver a lecture as she walks by. Hester also begins to hate children, who unconsciously realize there is something different about her and thus start to follow her with 'shrill cries' through the city streets.

One of the things which Hester starts to notice is that every once in a while she receives a sympathetic glance, and feels like she has a companion in her sin. Hawthorne puts it, 'it gave her a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts.' This is interesting because many of the people Hawthorne accuses of hypocrisy as regards the scarlet letter are, 'a venerable minister or magistrate,' people who are viewed as models of 'piety and justice.'

Analysis: The fact that Hester stays in Boston is likely due to the fact that she is too ashamed to go anywhere else. With the humiliation of receiving the scarlet letter, her tenacity and will-power are destroyed, causing her to accept her fate and remain in Boston.

The symbolism of the scarlet letter is expanded in this chapter. Whereas at first it represented Hester's adultery and also her needlework skills, it now takes on two more meanings. Foremost, the letter begins to represent the hidden shame of the community. Thus preachers will stop in the street and give sermons when they see Hester. The letter therefore becomes an example of crime and acts a deterrent for others in the community.

However, Hawthorne indicates that Hester is now able to see when other people sympathize with her. Thus the letter serves as a gateway into other people's secret crimes, and acts as a focal point for the shame of the entire community.. The letter can thus also be interpreted as a symbol of shame shared by everyone, rather than by Hester alone.

The treatment of Hester almost reaches a low point in this chapter. She is cut off socially in the sense that she has no friends and lives in an isolated cottage. In addition, Hester becomes an outcast which even the children mock, causing her more pain. Hawthorne indicates that even though Hester spends time helping to make clothes for the poor, they treat her badly in spite of her good intentions.

Her choice of habitation is crucial to the symbolism within the novel. The forest represents love, or the wilderness where the strict morals of the Puritan community cannot apply. Thus, when Hester makes her home on the outskirts of the city, directly on the edge of the woods, she is putting herself in a place of limbo between the moral and the immoral universes. This is important because it shows that Hester does not live under the strict Puritanical moral code, but rather tries to live in both worlds simultaneously.

The attentions Hester gives to designing Pearl's clothing is significant. Pearl should be viewed as a living extension of the scarlet letter. Thus Hester permits herself the extravagance of attiring Pearl in beautiful clothing much the way she decorated the letter upon her breast. Pearl, even more than the letter, embodies the shame of Hester's adultery.

Chapter Six: Pearl: Hawthorne discusses the choice of the name Pearl. He indicates that Hester chose the name to represent something of great value- namely the cost of her virtue. Hester is afraid that nothing good can come from her sin, and thus she fears that Pearl will in some way be retribution for her sinful passion.

Hester spends hours clothing Pearl in the richest garments she can find, even though Hawthorne comments that Pearl would appear just as beautiful in any garment. Hester's passion exists in the child's demeanor in the form of 'flightiness of temperand even some of the very cloud-shapes of gloom and despondency that had brooded in her heart.'

Pearl turns out to be unmanageable as a child, forcing Hester to let her do what she wants. Pearl has a particular mood where nothing Hester does can persuade the child to change her stance, and so eventually Hester '[is] ultimately compelled to stand aside, and permit the child to be swayed by her own impulses.'

Pearl is compared to a witch in both the way she interacts with other children and in the way she plays. Having been scorned by the Puritans all her young life, Pearl is positively wrathful when other children approach her, going so far as to throw stones and scream at them. With toys, Pearl always plays games in which she destroys everything.

Hawthorne points out that the first thing Pearl saw in her infancy was the scarlet letter. As a baby she even reached up and touched the letter, causing her mother intense agony at the shame it generated in her. Pearl later played a game where she threw flowers at her mother and jumped around in glee every time she hit the scarlet letter.

At one point Hester asks Pearl, 'Child, what art thou?' to which Pearl replies that she is Hester's little Pearl. Pearl eventually asks who sent her to Hester, to which Hester replies that the Heavenly Father sent her. Pearl responds with, 'He did not send meI have no Heavenly Father!' Pearl then presses Hester to tell her who her father is, saying, 'Tell me! Tell me! It is thou who must tell me!' Hester is unable to answer her question and remains silent, thinking about the fact that some Puritans think Pearl is the child of a demon.

Analysis: The description of Pearl in this chapter is intended to manifest Pearl as the living embodiment of her mother's sin. Thus the name Pearl itself is misleading. A pearl is a beautiful object found inside an ugly oyster, and at the same time contains a hard kernel of sand within it. Thus Hawthorne is trying to point out that appearances are deceiving, and that Pearl is anything but a beautiful person.

As was foreshadowed earlier, Pearl has become the living symbol of the scarlet letter. This is highlighted by the magnificent clothing Hester puts on her child, similarly to the way she decorated the scarlet letter. Pearl becomes the letter in another sense as well. Since childhood she has been mesmerized by the scarlet letter on her mother's breast, and enjoys playing with the letter. Thus she throws flowers at it and grabs for it even before she can speak.

Pearl's interactions with other people also lend credence to the view of her as nothing more than a living scarlet letter. She has no social skills and no interaction with other children, instead throwing stones at them and screaming insults. This creates a situation where Pearl's only reason for existence is to pry open the secret of her birth, and to cause her mother suffering.

The chapter tellingly ends with Pearl demanding that her mother tell her who her true father is. This is foreshadowing a future event where Pearl will likely be the one to reveal her father. Hawthorne is also making a social commentary here, namely that Pearl needs both a father and mother to become a complete child. Without a father, Hawthorne can only describe her as a 'witch' or as a child of the devil.

Chapter Seven: The Governor's Hall: Hester takes Pearl with her to the Governor's Hall in order to deliver some gloves which she has sown. Hester's main reason for going is to plead with Governor Bellingham to let her keep Pearl, whom the Governor felt would be better raised in a more Christian household.

Hester has decorated Pearl in an outrageous 'crimson velvet tunic' which was then embroidered with gold thread. Hawthorne comments that, 'the child's whole appearancewas the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life!' When the children in the town try to throw mud at her, Pearl chases them away and appears to resemble 'the scarlet fever' in her wrath.

Hester arrives at the Governor's mansion and enters. The mansion contains pictures of the Bellingham ancestors and a new suit of armor for the Governor himself. Pearl plays games by looking into the armor and then goes to look at the garden, from which she demands a red rose. When the Governor approaches, Pearl falls excitedly falls silent.

Analysis: The concept of Pearl being a punishment for her mother's sin is reinforced in this chapter. Hawthorne is very explicit about comparing Pearl to the scarlet letter, going so far as to write that, 'the child's whole appearancewas the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life.'

The theme of Pearl as a living scarlet letter is continued throughout the chapter in several ways. When they arrive at the mansion, Pearl demands the sunlight from the frontispiece. Hester replies rather sadly, 'No, my little Pearl! Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee!'

Inside the mansion, Pearl looks around and sees the shiny metal of the Governor's suit of armor. She then calls her mother's attention to the fact that the scarlet letter is grotesquely magnified by the convex shape of the armor, causing it to appear gigantic. Hester feels that Pearl must be, 'an imp who was seeking to mold itself into Pearl's shape.'

Hester then convinces Pearl to come look at the garden, where Pearl immediately demands a red rose. This hearkens directly back to the first chapter, where Pearl and the rose blossoms become connected for the first time. The rose blossom serves as a 'moral blossom' within the story according to Hawthorne. Thus the fact that Pearl is not given the rose at this point indicates that the moral of the story has not yet become obvious, and that like Pearl, the reader will have to wait. It also directly connects the rose blossom and Pearl in the physical sense for the first time.

Chapter Eight: The Elf-Child and the Minister: Governor Bellingham, accompanied by the Reverend John Wilson, Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth, enters the hall of his mansion. He first sees Pearl, dressed lavishly in her scarlet outfit, standing in front of him. Pearl introduces herself and tells them her name, at which point John Wilson states, 'Ruby, ratheror Red Rose, at the very least, judging from thy hue.'

The men then see Hester Prynne in the background. Governor Bellingham tells her that he thinks it would be better for the child if Pearl were removed from her mother's care. Hester responds that she can teach the child what she has learned from the scarlet letter, at which point Bellingham sternly indicates that the letter is precisely the reason they want to remove Pearl from her care.

As a test of Pear's education, John Wilson is asked to examine Pearl. He asks her who her maker is, to which Pearl replies that she was plucked off the rose bush that grows by the prison door. The Governor is so shocked by her reply that he is immediately prepared to take Pearl away from Hester.

Hester grabs Pearl and screams that she will die before the men are allowed to take away her daughter. Finally, in and act of desperation, she turns to Arthur Dimmesdale and pleads with him to speak on her behalf. He comes forward with his hand over his heart and argues that God has obviously given Pearl to Hester for some divine reason, and that it would meddle with the ways of the Lord to take Pearl away from her. He then indicates that Pearl is punishment for Hester as well, evidenced by the 'garb of the poor child, so forcibly reminding us of that red symbol which sears [Hester's] bosom.'

Bellingham agrees with Dimmesdale's arguments and decides to let matters stand as they currently are. Pearl then goes to Dimmesdale and presses her cheek against his hand, showing a tenderness which is unusual for her demeanor. Hester takes her and leaves.

As Hester is walking home, the sister of Governor Bellingham, Mistress Hibbins, opens her window and calls out to her. Mistress Hibbins is a witch who steals into the forest late at night to play with the Black Man. She asks Hester to accompany her, but Hester replies that she has to get Pearl home. She then adds that had they taken Pearl away from her, she would have been willing to go into the woods that night. Higgins says, 'We shall have thee there anon!'

Analysis: Much of this chapter is dedicated to drawing stronger parallels between Pearl, the scarlet letter, and the red rose. Thus Pearl is called a 'Red Rose' by Wilson when he first sees her. Even stronger is Pearl's response to Wilson's question concerning who made her, where she says that she was plucked off of the rose bush outside the prison door. This directly tells the reader that Pearl is the person to reveal the moral element of the story, for she embodies the morality which she will later reveal.

Hester's appeal to Arthur Dimmesdale marks a turning point in the novel. It is the first time she has relied on her relationship with the minister for support, and makes the other men aware that Dimmesdale knows Hester better than they thought. Dimmesdale steps forward with his hand over his heart, again hiding the scarlet letter which he feels upon his breast. This also ties back to Chillingworth's comment that he will recognize Pearl's true father by 'reading' his heart. Dimmesdale then correctly compares Pearl to the scarlet letter upon her mother's bosom, and manages to keep the mother and daughter together.

Pearl's response is unique at this juncture, in that she takes the minister's hand and places her cheek against it. This simple gesture is full of meaning, because it implies that Pearl recognizes Dimmesdale as being connected to her. Dimmesdale responds by kissing her on the forehead, in a sense claiming her as his own child.

The scene in which Mistress Higgins invites Hester into the woods to meet the Black Man is important. It largely acts to foreshadow events, but also serves to make a statement about the woods. The forest is the wilderness around Boston, and thus is an amoral backdrop. Thus, when Hester meets with Dimmesdale later in the story, the meeting will also take place in the forest.

Chapter Nine: The Leech: Roger Chillingworth, Hester's real husband, is described in more detail. After arriving at Boston and finding his wife in utter disgrace upon the pillory, he chooses to stay and live in the city. His uncommon intelligence and skill as a physician soon make him quite popular. Dimmesdale's poor health and Chillingworth's interest in the young man combine to make many of the church officials try and get them to live together. Dimmesdale declines at first, saying, 'I need no medicine.'

Dimmesdale finally gets into the permanent habit of placing his hand over his heart in pain, and agrees to meet with Chillingworth. The meeting immediately leads to the two men moving in together. Hawthorne comments that, 'A man burdened with a secret should especially avoid the intimacy of his physician.'

The townspeople are for the most part thrilled with the way the relationship between the two men is working out. However, there exist a few townspeople who have more innate intuition and who are skeptical of the physician's true motives. They feel that Chillingworth has undergone a profound change since arriving in Boston, going from a genial old man to an ugly and evil person. This leads Hawthorne to write that, 'it grew to be a widely diffused opinion that the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale,was haunted either by Satan himself, or Satan's emissary, in the guise of old Roger Chillingworth.

Analysis: The use of the term 'leech' to describe Chillingworth is quite appropriate and holds several connotations. He is after all a physician, who at this time were still known to use leeches as part of the medical regime. Thus the title is partially descriptive, and does not hold the negative meaning which modern society has assigned it. Nevertheless, Hawthorne is obviously pointing out that Chillingworth is a leech in the negative sense, that he is living off of Dimmesdale and will eventually suck the life out of him.

This chapter indicates that Chillingworth has succeeded in his pledge to Hester, namely to eventually discover the man who fathered Pearl. However, it is clear that Chillingworth has not yet achieved his goal, since he has failed to feel the heart of his patient, Dimmesdale.

The reaction of the townspeople, in eventually deciding that Chillingworth is on the side of the devil, is interesting to note. It implies that Chillingworth, for all his brilliance, is more shallow a character than would be expected, and that people can see through his guise. However, the point of this observation is also to make clear that Dimmesdale is still blind to Chillingworth's true motives, and thus is still at risk from him.

Chapter Ten: The Leech and His Patient: Chillingworth realizes that Dimmesdale is hiding some dark secret. He therefore expends a great deal of time and energy to to make Dimmesdale reveal what is troubling him. Dimmesdale fails to realize that Chillingworth is in fact his enemy, because he is so terrified of everyone in the town finding out his secret that he is blind to any enemy within his own home.

Chillingworth engages the minister in a conversation about why men keep secrets in their hearts, rather than reveal them immediately. Dimmesdale clutches his breast and struggles to avoid directly answering the questions Chillingworth poses.

The two men are interrupted by Pearl and Hester walking through the cemetery outside. Pearl is jumping from gravestone to gravestone, and finally starts dancing upon a large, flat stone. When Hester tries to make her stop, she takes several burrs and arranges them on the scarlet letter, to which they stick.

Chillingworth observes that Pearl has no 'discoverable principle of being' since she disregards all human ordinances and opinions. Dimmesdale then remarks that Pearl embodies 'the freedom of a broken law.' When Pearl sees the two men, she hurls one of her burrs at Dimmesdale, who recoils in fear. Pearl then shouts to her mother that they should leave, or the 'Black Man' who has already gotten hold of Dimmesdale will catch them.

Chillingworth then tells Dimmesdale that as his physician he cannot cure him since his ailment sees to come from his spiritual side. Chillingworth demands to be told what sort of secret Dimmesdale is hiding. The minister, upset by this, passionately cries out, 'No! -not to thee! -not to an earthly physician!' and leaves the room.

Soon thereafter Dimmesdale falls asleep while reading. Chillingworth takes the opportunity to place his hand over Dimmesdale's heart, and then leaves before the minister can awaken. He is incredibly full of joy and wonderment after having felt Dimmesdale's heart, and Hawthorne writes that he acted, 'how Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven and won into his kingdom.'

Analysis: Chillingworth's role changes in this chapter from human to inhuman. Before he was only described as evil, now he is being compared to Satan stealing mens' souls. Pearl adds to this impression by calling him the 'Black Man,' another word for the devil, and telling her mother that he already has captured Dimmesdale's soul.

Pearl continues to be the living representative of the scarlet letter, causing her mother shame and humiliation. She prances on the graves of the dead and breaks every moral law that the Puritans have created. Her use of the burrs is meant to visibly show the way she punishes Hester. This chapter takes it one step further by then having Pearl throw the burr at Dimmesdale as well.

The end of the Chapter is the revelation of previous foreshadowing. In previous chapters, Chillingworth told Hester that he would be able to know her partner by reading his heart. In the final scene, he is in fact able to read Dimmesdale's heart and know the secrets Dimmesdale is hiding. What is interesting is that Hawthorne indicates that Chillingworth is surprised by what he discovers, implying that Chillingworth never fully suspected Dimmesdale of being Pearl's father.

Chapter Eleven: The Interior of a Heart: Chillingworth, having figured out that Mr. Dimmesdale is the true father of Pearl, goes on a subtle campaign to hurt the minister as much as possible. Revenge consumes him to the point that he can only focus on causing the other man pain. Dimmesdale never figures out that his strongest enemy is the man that he considers his only friend and physician.

Mr. Dimmesdale is so overwhelmed with shame and remorse that he has started to become famous for his sermons. His ability as a speaker is enhanced by the fact that he feels far more sinful than many in his audience. He has even tried to tell his congregation about the sin he committed with Hester Prynne, but always in such a way that they think he being modest. This causes Dimmesdale even more pain, for he believes that he is also lying to his people.

Dimmesdale is also a masochist, and uses chains and whips to beat himself in his closet. In addition he undertakes extremely long fasts, refusing to eat or drink as an act of penance. This causes him to have hallucinations, in which he sees his parents, friends, and even Pearl and Hester. One night he decides that there might be a way for him to overcome his anguish, and he softly leaves his house.

Analysis: Hawthorne reveals that Dimmesdale is a masochist here for the first time. This is interesting, because the practice of self-flatulation is usually considered a Roman Catholic phenomenon. It also shows the insanity which is taking over Dimmesdale's life; he is unable to cope with his sin, and since he is so religious he feels he must do something in order to be forgiven by God.

The other interesting admission in this chapter is the fact that Dimmesdale has attempted to reveal his sin to his congregation. However, each time he is unable to succeed because his followers fail to realize that what he is saying is true. Instead, his reputation is so high that many believe he is merely being humble.

Chapter Twelve: The Minister's Vigil: Dimmesdale, having left his house, walks until he reached the scaffold where Hester Prynne suffered her public humiliation several years prior. He climbs the stairs and imagines that he has a scarlet letter on his chest which all the world can see. While in this state of mind, Dimmesdale screams out loud, and is immediately terrified that the whole town has heard him. Instead, only Governor Bellingham briefly appears on his balcony before retiring to bed.

The Reverend Mr. Wilson approaches the scaffold holding a lantern, but only because he is returning from a late night vigil. He fails to see Dimmesdale, who is standing on the scaffold. Dimmesdale waits a while longer, and then bursts out laughing. Much to his surprise, the voice of Pearl answers him.

Hester and Pearl are at the scaffold because they have been at Governor Winthrop's deathbed, taking measurements for a robe. Dimmesdale invites them to join him on the stand, which the do. All three hold hands and Pearl asks him, 'Wilt thou stand here with Mother and me, tomorrow noontide?' Dimmesdale answers, 'I shall, indeed, stand with thy mother and thee one day, but not tomorrow.' Pearl persists in her question, and Dimmesdale answers that, 'the daylight of this world shall not see our meeting.'

At that moment a meteor streaks across the sky, illuminating everything, including Dimmesdale with his hand over his heart and the scarlet letter on Hester's dress. Looking upward, Dimmesdale believes that he sees a giant letter A in the sky. When he looks down again, Pearl is pointing to Roger Chillingworth, who is watching him from across the street. Chillingworth takes Dimmesdale home.

The next day, after a sermon which Hawthorne describes as, 'the richest and most powerful,' Dimmesdale is greeted by the sexton. The sexton hands him his glove, telling him that it was found on the scaffold where Satan must have left it. The man then tells Dimmesdale that the night before a large letter A was seen in the sky, which was interpreted to mean 'Angel' in honor of Governor Winthrop's death.

Analysis: This chapter is the most powerful and moving to date. The action is rapid and contains a great deal of allusions and foreshadowing. The state of mind of Dimmesdale helps set up the chapter: 'Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart.'

The question that needs to be answered is why Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold after all this time. The only possible answer is that he seeks absolution for his crime, and the only way he can conceive of receiving such absolution is to stand where Hester stood. However, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not enough. After all, Hester had to deal with a large audience, while Dimmesdale is standing alone.

Hawthorne makes up for these differences by making Dimmesdale imagine many of the things Hester went through. Thus, 'Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart.' This is taken even further by the arrival of Hester and Pearl, who agree to join Dimmesdale.

Pearl now assumes her true role in the story by being the person who will eventually make Dimmesdale admit his crime. She asks him to stand on the scaffold with her mother at noontide of the next day. This is her way of saying to him that although he thinks he is absolved, he really has not yet been punished fully. Divine intervention even plays a role at this point, when the meteor lights up the sky and makes Dimmesdale and Hester visible, thus contradicting the words that Dimmesdale has just spoken.

Although Chillingworth is in the scene, he is no longer the main threat to Dimmesdale. By invoking divine intervention in the form of the meteor and then the large letter 'A' in the sky, Hawthorne is in essence telling the reader that Dimmesdale is doomed to his fate. Thus Chillingworth can no longer influence the outcome of events, although he naturally does not realize this.

Chapter Thirteen: Another View of Hester: Hester's reputation has changed over the seven years since she had Pearl. Her devotion to serving the sick and needy has given her access into almost every home, and people now interpret the 'A' as meaning 'Able' rather than 'Adultery.' Hawthorne goes so far as to state that, 'the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun's bosom.'

Hester's appearance has also changed over the years. Rather than her youthful good looks, she now seems more like a shell of a human being. Her 'rich and luxuriant' hair has been either cut off or remains hidden under a cap.' But Hawthorne points out that she, 'might at any moment become a woman again, if there were only the magic touch to effect the transfiguration.'

Rather than living in passion and feeling, Hester spends most of her time devoted to thought. Indeed, Hawthorne goes so far as to state that, 'had little Pearl never come to her from the spiritual world,she might have come down to us in history, hand in hand with Ann Hutchinson, as the foundress of a religious sect.'

Hester resolves to help Dimmesdale by rescuing him from Roger Chillingworth. She has grown strong enough as a woman to see that her previous pact with Chillingworth, in which she promised not to reveal who he really is, was the wrong decision. She therefore decides to meet him, and soon thereafter finds him in the woods collecting medicinal herbs.

Analysis: There are three main changes in this chapter which need to be focused on. The first concerns the new interpretation of the scarlet letter. Hester's changing reputation leads to the letter being reevaluated, so much that it comes to mean 'Able.' But Hawthorne does not stop at that. He goes on to compare the letter to a 'cross on a nun's bosom,' very clearly committing a sacrilegious error. His choice of words, 'cross on a nun's bosom,' is even more remarkable because of its latent sexuality. Thus, Hawthorne is saying that Hester, clearly a sinner, is comparable to a nun in her virtue. In the previous chapter this was hinted at when the sexton defined the scarlet letter as meaning 'Angel' rather than 'Adultery.'

The second difference is that of Hester's focus. In Chapter One Hawthorne compared Hester with Ann Hutchinson, and this marks his second reference to her. Thus the foreshadowing in Chapter One is finally brought to fruition. Hester's focus changes by her shift from passion to intellectual thought. Rather than act on feeling, she now acts on logic.

This brings about the third change, namely Hester's willingness to challenge Roger Chillingworth. This is quite dramatic a shift in her personality, because before she was terrified of what he might do to her. Now, having seen that her inaction has in fact led to Dimmesdale's demise in health, she realizes that she must act quickly.

The sad part of this chapter is that even though Hester finally becomes a person of action, it is far too late for her to actually change anything. The foreshadowing of the previous chapter indicated that Dimmesdale's fate lay with heaven, and that Chillingworth could no longer effect the minister. Thus, Hester's attempts to drive Chillingworth away are actually futile.

Chapter Fourteen: Hester and the Physician: Hester sends Pearl away for moment and approaches Chillingworth. He tells her that the council thinks she may be allowed to remove the scarlet letter in due time, to which she replies that no earthly power can decide such a thing. Hester then notices the changes that have taken place in Chillingworth over the past seven years. She sees that he has gone from a soft -spoken scholar to a fierce man. Hawthorne writes that, '[he] was a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil'

Hester then tells Chillingworth that she plans to reveal his true identity to Dimmesdale. He is unmoved by this, telling her that nothing he or she does can alter the way things now stand. She pleads with Chillingworth to pardon Dimmesdale for what happened so that he can let go of his revenge. Chillingworth replies, 'Let the black flower blossom as it may.'

Analysis: This chapter merely puts into words what has been foreshadowed up until now. It is clear that Chillingworth is unable to forgive or pardon, but even he realizes that events are happening independently of his intervention.

Chillingworth's final comment about the black flower blossoming simply means that the evil which has been created will continue to grow. This draws on the imagery of Hester, 'plant[ing] the germ of evil' and thus makes the entire situation out to be her fault. Hester realizes that she is to blame for the results of her actions, but finds it difficult to accept.

Chapter Fifteen: Hester and Pearl: During her mother's conversation with Roger Chillingworth, Pearl has managed to play by herself. Her last act is to make the symbol of the scarlet letter out of seaweed and put it on her chest. Her mother asks her if she knows what the letter means, but Pearl only knows it is the letter 'A.'

Hester then asks Pearl is she knows why her mother wears the letter. Pearl answers that, 'It is for the same reason that minister keeps his hand over his heart.' Pearl then demands that her mother tell her what the letter 'A' stands for, and why the minister keeps putting his hand over his heart. Hester lies about the letter for the first time ever, saying that she wears if for the gold thread.


Hester's refusal to tell Pearl the true meaning of the letter is symbolic of Pearl's role in the novel. Pearl has often been compared to a living version of the scarlet letter. Thus, until she is told what the letter really means she is unable to know herself. Her role as a living scarlet letter is to announce to the whole world who the guilty parties are, something which she has unwittingly done throughout the novel.

The failure of Hester to fully reveal her secret to Pearl creates a conflict which will have to be resolved before the novel ends. Pearl's persistence in asking what the letter means shows that she is starting to complete her assigned role in the story. She started to complete this role by demanding that Dimmesdale hold her hand on the scaffold, and will likely be the one to finally reveal Dimmesdale's secret.

Chapter Sixteen: A Forest Walk: Hester takes Pearl on a walk into the woods because she has heard that Dimmesdale will be walking along the forest path. She needs to meet him in order to warn him about who Chillingworth really is. While entering the woods, the sunlight spots start to disappear as Hester approaches them. Pearl tells her that she can still catch the sunlight, since she does not yet wear a letter. She then runs and catches a beam of sunlight which disappears as soon as Hester tries to put her hand into it.

Pearl asks her mother to tell her a story about the Black Man, who is said to haunt the forest. The Black Man is a myth about the devil, and the story says that he carries a large book and pen with which people write their names in blood. The Black Man then puts his mark on the person.

Hester, tired of Pearl asking about the scarlet letter, tells her that letter is the mark of the Black Man which she received after meeting the Black Man once before. Dimmesdale then starts coming down the forest path, and Pearl sees him. She asks her mother if he covers his heart because he has a mark on his chest as well. She further asks why he does not wear his mark on the outside of his clothing like her mother does.

Analysis: This chapter is meant to foreshadow many of the events that will be revealed before the ending. The sunlight running away from Hester is meant to indicate that wherever she goes, bad things will happen. Thus her meeting with Dimmesdale will only cause him further suffering.

The story of the Black Man is told in order to compare the nature of the suffering of Hester and Dimmesdale. Hester's suffering is open and visible, marked on her bosom with gold threads. Dimmesdale's is hidden under his clothing, and therefore internal. Pearl clearly understands this, and thus points out the difference in the mark her mother wears and the hidden one that Dimmesdale bears. This also foreshadows the revelation that Dimmesdale has an actual, physical letter branded onto his skin.

Chapter Seventeen: The Pastor and his Parishioner: Hester calls out to Dimmesdale and starts talking to him. He tells her that he feels like a cheat whenever he preaches to his congregation, and that he longs for a friend who knows his secret. Hester offers to be his friend, but then tells him that he is living with an enemy.

She reveals the fact that Chillingworth is her former husband, at which Dimmesdale first appears angry, but then sinks down into the ground. He tells Hester that he cannot forgive her for not telling him. Hester, after seven years of desperately wanting forgiveness, puts her arms around Dimmesdale and pleads with him to forgive her, which he finally does.

He begs her to tell him what to do now that he cannot live with Chillingworth any longer. Hester advises Dimmesdale to leave the settlement and go into the wilderness where he live in peace. He declines the very thought, but she presses him to then take a new name and go to Europe. Dimmesdale says, 'thou tellest of running a race to a man whose knees are tottering beneath him!'

Analysis: This sad chapter is an encounter between Hester and Dimmesdale which should have occurred much earlier in the novel. Hawthorne places it here, so late in the story, because he knows that Dimmesdale will die. If the two lovers had met any earlier, especially prior to the scaffold scene, Dimmesdale might still have had enough energy to run away with Hester. Unfortunately, Dimmesdale also realizes that events are now beyond his control, and that he must remain in Boston and face his fate.

However, there is a tendency for Dimmesdale to deny what he knows is truth. Thus, even knowing that he cannot really escape Boston, he allows himself to be convinced by Hester that he can. Thus the last words of the chapter are, 'Thou shalt not go alone!' followed by, 'Then, all was spoken!' These words imply that Dimmesdale has changed his mind and capitulated to Hester's demands.

Chapter Eighteen: A Flood of Sunshine: Dimmesdale allows himself to be overcome by Hester's arguments for leaving, and resolves to go with her. He is happy once he makes the decision to go, and feels that a burden of guilt has been lifted off of his shoulders. Hester, in a moment of passion, says, 'Let us not look back.' She then undoes the scarlet letter and tosses it away from her, watching it land only a few feet from the stream which would have carried it away.

Hester tells Dimmesdale that he must get to know Pearl so that he can love her the way she does. She calls Pearl, who is standing in a ray of sunshine. Hawthorne then compares Pearl to a nymph, and calls her a wild spirit. He tells how the animals were not afraid of her, and how even a wolf allowed her to pat its head. Pearl has decorated herself with wild flowers, both in her hair and on her clothing. When she sees the minister she approaches slowly.

Analysis: The image of the forest as the wild place where can passion can flow is reinvoked in this chapter. Thus Hawthorne comments about Hester, 'She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wildernessas vastas the untamed forest.' The phrase, 'a moral wilderness,' is crucial to understanding the novel. Boston is still a small settlement which is bordered on three sides by the forest, thus making is a moral haven within the amoral forest. The forest is therefore the natural location for Hester and Dimmesdale to rekindle their love and passion.

Hester's passion was compared to that of the brook's sadness in earlier chapters. The idea of a sad brook, slowly going into the forest, indicates that Hester is lost and does not know where she will end up. In this chapter she makes the decision to follow the brook deeper into the wilderness. This fires her passion to the point that she throws away the scarlet letter and lets her rich hair down. The brook takes on the new significance of leading to mysteries.

The exact meaning of sunshine must be commented on. In an earlier chapter the sunshine allowed Pearl to stand in it, but withdrew when Hester arrived. The title of this chapter, 'A Flood of Sunshine,' therefore has a direct meaning. Basically, sunshine stands for unbridled passion. Thus, prior to meeting with Dimmesdale, Hester had crushed out most of her passion and was unable to enjoy the sunshine. However, after deciding to leave with him, both their passions are reborn, and this is stated metaphorically as a flood of sunshine.

Chapter Nineteen: The Child at the Brookside: Hester watches as Pearl walks up to the stream and stops on the other side of, still standing in a ray of sunlight. Dimmesdale is anxious that Pearl should cross the stream, and asks Hester to make her hurry. However, Pearl starts screaming and convulsing and points to Hester's chest, where the scarlet letter had been removed. Hester finally has to get up and cross the stream, reattach the letter and put her hair back under her hat.

Hester then drags Pearl up to where Dimmesdale is sitting. Pearl again asks if the minister will always keep his hand over his heart, and if he will walk into town with them. Dimmesdale gives her a kiss on the forehead, but Pearl runs away and washes the kiss off in the stream.

Analysis: This scene is particularly interesting as regards Pearl's behavior. She refuses to cross the stream until her mother comes over and picks up the scarlet letter. The meaning and symbolism is quite strong. Since Pearl is a living version of the scarlet letter, when Hester tosses her badge of shame away, she essentially throws Pearl away. Thus Pearl assumes that she has been rejected, and naturally demands to be picked up by her mother, rather than bring back the scarlet letter herself.

Pearl's action foreshadows the ending of the novel even more. Even though Hester and Dimmesdale think they can just run away, Pearl is standing on the other side of the boundary refusing to come with them.

Hawthorne is not merely telling a story here, he is also trying to make a moral point. Pearl is in fact the moral of the story, as indicated in the very first chapter. The moral she is meant to teach is that Hester and Dimmesdale cannot let their passions overrun them without regard for the consequences. Pearl herself is a consequence of their previous passion, and so her refusal to cross the stream until her mother reattaches the letter is her way of demanding that the two lovers take responsibility for what they have done, which even this late in the novel they have failed to do.

Chapter Twenty: The Minister in a Maze: Dimmesdale returns to town thoroughly aware of having a new perception on life. He has much more energy than when he left only two days earlier, and everything looks different to him. Three times in a row he is approached by various people, and he struggles not to utter blasphemy. He is even tempted to teach dirty words to a group of small Puritan children.

Mistress Hibbins overhears him complain that he is haunted and tempted. She stops and asks Dimmesdale when he will be returning to the forest, so that she may join him. He tells her he is never going back, to which she replies that at midnight they will soon be together in the forest. She then departs, leaving Dimmesdale terrified of what he had done with Hester.

Dimmesdale finally returns home and enters his study. Soon thereafter Chillingworth enters and offers to make some medicine for Dimmesdale so that he will have enough energy to write his Election Sermon. The Election Sermon is meant to be the highlight of the clergyman's career to date, and is an extremely important speech. Dimmesdale declines the offer and instead orders some food, which he eats 'with ravenous appetite.' He then sits down and starts writing his sermon, continuing all through the night and even well into the morning.

Analysis: Dimmesdale's confusion and changed spirit are clearly the result of his passionate bond with Hester in the woods. However, the evil thoughts that he keeps having are difficult to explain. It is likely that Hester has infected him with her passion to the point that he is willing to break with the Puritanical strictness and start 'living' in the emotional sense. However, he naturally assumes that the devil is at work instead, and asks, 'Did I make a contract with him in the forest, and sign it with my blood?' This reference to the Black Man, which Hester claims to have received her letter from, is a fulfillment of Pearl's questions in the earlier pages.

Mistress Hibbins approaches Dimmesdale in this chapter and invites him into the woods, much the way she spoke with Hester in Chapter Seven. This again foreshadows a reunion in the forest where the sin which Hester and Dimmesdale committed will be completed.

Chapter Twenty-one: The New England Holiday: Hester and Pearl go into the town and enter the marketplace, which is teeming with people. The holiday is to celebrate the election of a new Governor, and festivities are planned for one of the few non-Sundays when everyone stops working.

A group of sailors is also in the town, planning to leave the next day. Hester and Dimmesdale have worked a plan to escape on their ship. However, Roger Chillingworth goes and talks to the ship's captain, who then comes over to Hester. He tells her that he is adding Chillingworth to the crew for the voyage, since he can always use another physician. Hester barely reacts in her outward expression, but after the captain goes she sees Chillingworth smiling at her.

Analysis: This is Chillingworth's final victory over both Hester and Dimmesdale. He effectively has stopped them from being able to leave the next day, and thus thinks that revenge is finally his. However, as was said before, Chillingworth is actually only deluding himself. Events are unfolding far faster than either he or Hester realize, and his coup over the lovers will actually have no effect on the conclusion.

Chapter Twenty-two: The Procession: A large parade of soldier and magistrates goes through the town. Dimmesdale is towards the end of the procession, and appears to have far more energy than ever before. Pearl tells her mother that she wanted to go ask him to kiss her in broad daylight, at which point Hester tells Pearl to hush.

Mistress Hibbins comes up to Hester and tells her that she knows Dimmesdale and Hester met in the woods. She indicates that she knows about Dimmesdale having received the badge of sin, and that he is hiding it. She then says that the Black Man has 'a way of ordering matters so that the mark shall be disclosed in open daylight to the eyes of all the world.'

Hester takes Pearl and goes to stand near the foot of the scaffold in order to listen to Dimmesdale's speech. Pearl then takes off and runs around playing. The ship's captain gets Pearl to come to him, and he gives her a message. Pearl returns to her mother and tells her that Chillingworth has told the captain that he will make sure Dimmesdale gets on board, and the Hester only has to worry about herself and Pearl.

Hester is crushed by this new information. She stands still, and is soon surrounded by many people who are trying to get a glimpse of the scarlet letter on her breast.

Analysis: The foreshadowing was that Mistress Hibbins would eventually meet Dimmesdale and Hester. But here it is revealed that she already knows about their sins and does not need to meet them anymore. The true meaning of her previous words is that she will meet them in the afterlife, since they are all sinner's together.

Hester's location, directly next to the scaffold, is the strongest indicator that a revelation is about to occur. It directly foreshadows the events which will soon take place there, and leaves no doubt about the fact that Dimmesdale will soon join her.

Chapter Twenty-three: Revelation of the Scarlet Letter: Dimmesdale finishes his sermon, and the crowd erupts in loud applause. It marks the highest point of Dimmesdale's life. Dimmesdale then loses the energy which had sustained him ever since meeting Hester in the forest. He slowly walks over to the scaffold and pillory.

When he arrives, he calls out, 'Hester, come hither! Come, my little Pearl!' Pearl immediately runs over to him and hugs his knees. Roger Chillingworth grabs his arm and demands that he stop, but Dimmesdale laughs him off and tells that he will now escape his evil influence.

Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold and calls Hester, who slowly comes over to him. Chillingworth bitterly tells Dimmesdale that there was no place on earth he could have escaped to, except on the scaffold, where he would have been safe. Hester is terrified that all three of them will die as a result of this scene.

The crowd is bewildered by the actions of the minister. He tells them that he should have stood with Hester seven years earlier. Dimmesdale then indicates that he has secretly worn the badge of the scarlet letter the whole time, without anyone knowing it. Hawthorne writes that, 'he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast. It was revealed!'

Dimmesdale then sinks down to his knees and asks Pearl to kiss him now. She does, and 'a spell was brokenher tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world. Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled.' Dimmesdale then dies on the scaffold.

Analysis: This scene marks the final culmination of everything which Hawthorne has foreshadowed. The physical mark of the scarlet letter which in embossed on Dimmesdale's flesh is revealed. Roger Chillingworth is defeated by the minister, and must now live with his hatred. Pearl's role as the living scarlet letter is finally over, and the moral which she was meant to teach has been learned by Dimmesdale and Hester, who finally took responsibility for their sin.

The ending is quite rapid and culminates in Dimmesdale's death. This is agony for Hester to watch, because she still loves Dimmesdale. However, the ending also illustrates the fact that neither Hester nor Chillingworth were able to control the final events. Instead, the inspiration really did come from Providence, as Hawthorne writes several times.

Chapter Twenty-four: Conclusion:Soon after Dimmesdale dies, Roger Chillingworth also passes away. He leaves all of his estates to Pearl, who immediately becomes the wealthiest heiress in the New World. Hester and Pearl then disappear for several years. Hester returns to live the rest of her life in her cottage, and becomes famous throughout the community for her help with the poor and sick. Hawthorne infers that Pearl is happily married and living overseas in Europe. Hester eventually dies and is buried in the King's Chapel cemetery.

Character List

Arthur Dimmesdale: an eminent minister in Boston and also the father of Pearl. He is a tortured man who constantly places his hand over his hearth when agitated. His health is quite bad, and it is thanks to Roger Chillingworth's potions that he is able to stay alive. Dimmesdale admits to being Pearl's father at the very end of the novel, and reveals that he has a scarlet letter branded into his flesh. He dies upon the scaffold while holding Hester's hand.

Black Man: a name for the devil. The legend speaks of a Black Man who inhabits the woods and gets people to write their names in his book, using their own blood as ink.

General Miller: the Oldest Inhabitant of the Customs House. He has the independent position of Collector, which allows him to avoid political shuffling of positions. As such, he also protects the other men from being fired, and is the reason why many of the employees are old.

Governor Bellingham: the former governor and the man who wants to take Pearl away from Hester. He decides to allow Pearl to stay with her mother after Hester forces Dimmesdale to plead on her behalf.

Hester Prynne: the main character of The Scarlet Letter. Hester is the mother of Pearl, and is the woman who must wear the scarlet letter. She is the wife of Roger Chillingworth, but Arthur Dimmesdale is Pearl's father. Hester suffers the public humiliation of having to wear the letter 'A' on her chest. She lives in Boston until her death.

Inspector: the patriarch of the Customs House. His father created the post for him and he has retained it ever since. He is considered one of the happiest workers, likely because he knows he will never be removed from his post.

John Wilson: the eldest clergyman in Boston, he is a friend of Arthur Dimmesdale.

Jonathan Pue: an ancient Surveyor of the Customs House. Hawthorne claims to find a package with his name on it which contains the story of The Scarlet Letter.

Mistress Hibbins: the sister of Governor Bellingham. She is said to have been a witch, and rumors told of her stealing into the woods during the night.

Pearl: Hester's daughter. Pearl is characterized as a living version of the scarlet letter. She constantly causes her mother and Dimmesdale torment and anguish throughout the novel. Pearl is described as extremely beautiful, but lacking certain Christian qualities. After Arthur Dimmesdale dies, Pearl becomes a normal child and eventually marries.

Roger Chillingworth: Hester's husband from the Netherlands. Chillingworth arrives in Boston the day that Hester is publicly shamed and forced to wear the scarlet letter. He vows revenge on the father of Pearl, and soon thereafter moves in with Arthur Dimmesdale. His revenge is stifled at the end when Dimmesdale reveals that he is Pearl's father before dying. Chillingworth, having lost the object of his hatred, dies soon thereafter


The novel opens with Hester being led to the scaffold where she is to be publicly shamed for having committed adultery. Hester is forced to wear the letter 'A' on her gown at all times. She has stitched a large scarlet 'A' onto her dress with gold thread, giving the letter an air of elegance.

Hester carries Pearl, her daughter, with her. On the scaffold she if asked to reveal the name of Pearl's father, but she refuses. In the crowd Hester recognizes her husband from Amsterdam, Roger Chillingworth.

Chillingworth visits Hester after she is returned to the prison. He tells her that he will find out who the man was, and that he will read the truth on the man's heart. He then forces her to promise never to reveal his true identity.

Hester moves into a cottage bordering the woods. She and Pearl live there in relative solitude. Hester earns her money by doing stitchwork for local dignitaries, but often spends her time helping the poor and sick. Pearl grows up to be wild, in the sense that she refuses to obey her mother.

Roger Chillingworth earns a reputation as being a good physician. He uses his reputation to get transferred into the same home as Arthur Dimmesdale, an ailing minister. Chillingworth eventually discovers that Dimmesdale is the true father of Pearl, at which point he spends his every moment trying to torment the minister.

One night Dimmesdale is so overcome with shame about hiding his secret that he walks to the scaffold where Hester was publicly humiliated. He stands on the scaffold and imagines the whole town watching him with a letter emblazoned on his chest. While standing there, Hester and Pearl arrive. He asks them to stand with him, which they do. Pearl then asks him to stand with her the next day at noon.

When a meteor illuminates the three people standing on the scaffold, they see Roger Chillingworth watching them. Dimmesdale tells Hester that he is terrified of Chillingworth, who offers to take Dimmesdale home. Hester realizes that Chillingworth is slowly killing Dimmesdale, and that she has to help him.

A few weeks later Hester sees Chillingworth picking herbs in the woods. She tells him that she is going to reveal the fact that he is her husband to Dimmesdale. He tells her that Providence is now in charge of their fates, and that she may do as she sees fit.

Hester takes Pearl into the woods where they wait for Dimmesdale to arrive. He is surprised to see them, but confesses to Hester that he is desperate for a friend who knows his secret. She comforts him and tells him Chillingworth's true identity. He is furious, but allows her to convince him that they should run away together. He finally agrees, and returns to town with more energy than he has ever shown before.

Hester finds a ship which will carry all three of them, and it works out that the ship is due to sail the day after Dimmesdale gives his Election Sermon. However, during the day of the sermon, Chillingworth gets the ship's captain to agree to take him on board as well. Hester does not know how to get out of this dilemma.

Dimmesdale gives his Election Sermon, and it receives the highest accolades of any preaching he has ever performed. He then unexpectedly walks to the scaffold and stands on it, in full view of the gathered masses. Dimmesdale calls Hester and Pearl to come to him. Chillingworth tries to stop him, but Dimmesdale laughs and tells him that he cannot win.

Hester and Pearl join Dimmesdale on the scaffold. Dimmesdale then tells the people that he is also a sinner like Hester, and that he should have assumed his rightful place by her side over seven years earlier. He then rips open his shirt to reveal a scarlet letter on his flesh. Dimmesdale falls to his knees and dies while on the scaffold.

Hester and Pearl leave the town for a while, and several years later Hester returns. No one hears from Pearl again, but it is assumed that she gets married and has children in Europe. Hester never removes her scarlet letter, and when she passes away she is buried in Kings' Chapel.

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