The Scarlet Letter

From the first paragraph, N. Hawthorne goes straight into a story which requires a knowledge seemingly more accessible in his era. One thing is clear, his style of writing is quite more easily understood since the chapters are quite short which promotes breaks for those who need or like to use “oldster” authors as filler until something more usual in interest happens along. It’s also clear Hawthorne caters to the readers who know the finer subjects of religion, but also gives indication to what to expect when mentioning Hutchinson, which is plunked right before the second chapter.

Law and religion being compared closely as being about the same in importance, Hawthorne is tolerably flowing with his words and does take a specific amount of attention, although I do accede to the detail to describe the interests of the women and men separately and barely remembering, briefly so for the men and ambiguous in specification. It goes on to say the generations of women’s savageness receding as the ladies children’s personalities developed, becoming milder in nature. Whilst there is some usage of Old English, I haven’t the resource of internet at the time of reading, so restrain my semi-curious need for some unexplained vocabulary, even though there are plenty of bullet-point asides.

Then a conversation of some women arguing what a woman marked with the sign of being improper, should be allowed to hide it or whether the woman suffers it regardless of its showing. The women in the prison, are interrupted by the town-crier and takes one woman with a child grasped in her arms,presumably hiding her scarlet shame until he brings her before the townspeople, where she boldly puts the child in one arm, (most likely realizing what the narrator supplies the reader) why hide one shame with a supposedly obvious other? Since the women given the scarlet letter must stitch them by hand, they can make them look however they choose, which could be used as another form of defiance to the task and “humiliation”. In a way, the people make these women take the walk of shame (which many a girl has tried to forget in those college days or so amply portrayed in Sorority Boys; Harland Williams is the bomb, even though he isn’t in the clip I’ve attached). Once she arrives at the pillory before having to go through being unable to put her face down, whether for shame or exhaustion, she is allowed to stand before all on the platform upright and however she chooses to display her emotions. She also is able to imagine herself elsewhere, a talent which under stress, would certainly be handy (whilst I’m wont to assume it, if Hester’s husband is an extreme amount older than she, as I suspect, I’m beginning to understand why she may have been tempted into the arms of another to the point of conception, due to their refusal of a back-up plan of the times). She does come back to reality, she dazed and sobered to the situation she discovers herself.

The main civilians put Hester’s story in order; her husband being overseas, (I know for certain if I had tried to read this book in school I wouldn’t only not have cared for it, but also would have been way too impatient for the long-winded passages. Otherwise, as of now I’m enjoying the story, if not for some of the pre-Modern English terms I mentioned before). Also the main councilman or whatever his title, keeps himself secluded to be more pure of thought and not be hindered by the problems and side notes which affect everyone unless trained otherwise. The group request he get a confession from her. The Reverend then uses the technique still used today: Delusional logic, which only succeeds if one believes in the drivel the Reverend spouts. Everyone accusing her of adultery try to guilt her into giving the man up, which she repeatedly refuses.

They don’t make the proceeding any easier, regardless of refusal, letting it go on whilst the Reverend goes on to sermonize the hell fire coming. Eventually she is led back to the prison. She is visited by the doctor when she and her baby stays agitated. It is revealed this being her husband, whom she never loved. He tries to uncover who’s baby-daddy it is, to no avail. No one knows the physician is her husband and he bids her not to confess so he doesn’t have to put up with the fame of having a faithless wife. He threatens her lovers identity, which he doesn’t know but claims to be able to learn if need be, so she shouldn’t test his lack of any information or else he’ll out her, the man reiterating his oath of identifying the culprit, in a roundabout way.

Hester serves her time and is released, no worse than for her feelings of exposure. She expands on her talent for needlework (what with embroidering the letter and making a living from it and also baby cloaks and such). She clothed her baby girl in finer clothing and had only the scarlet letter as her one intricate adornment of dress, everything else is bland. She also made clothes for the poor. Even though Hester tries to stay strong, some of the town-children have reactions which seem to disturb her if not give her a pang of exposure, and children being how they are, partly oblivious to what words they are saying, let alone the meanings, make Hester also cringe. The torture of going out and people seeing the symbol and the looks of judgement wear on Hester (where the wearing of the letter becomes more difficult as time goes by). Even when noticing other women who possibly shared her brand, she becomes paranoid of sinning again with the possible kinsman-ship, perhaps in distinguishing someone like herself, but in the end makes her feel the same loneliness.

Hester seems to be annoyed by this “gift” of knowing who shares a brand (Hawthorne injects a “legend” where the scarlet letter, at one time was actually made of internal fire, but the fire burns Hester’s chest, metaphorical-like). More information of Pearl then follows, the infant daughter. Hester always dressed Pearl finely, and upon delving closer, learns she makes them herself with the best materials and lets her imagination take over the projects. Hester struggles with the apprehension of what Pearl may start showing in her personality traits and if they’ll be pure or not due to her “evil” way of arrival to this world. Pearl did start having a mischievous smile – or what seemed like to Hester. During tantrums the child would give her the impression of a sprite — a non-human which to assure herself otherwise, would hug and kiss the little girl to prove her physical being; Hester was bewildered by her daughter’s behavior. When Hester would cry, the child would be silent with clenched fists with a look of discontent.

Due to Hester and the town showing Pearl and herself, by their actions, she is an outsider, she begins to feel isolated and when Hester takes Pearl for walks and the children surround Pearl, she reacts with survival mode, which consists of shouted words which could sound witch-curse-like and puts Hester on edge. At the same time, she appreciates the passion showing in her daughter and how she felt the same before the sin she committed, but since then, has softened with her motherhood: (eye-roll). Pearl only smiles when her mother prays how she had her at all, not understanding. Pearl does notice the scarlet letter and seems to be periodically attracted to it. Hester notices this and asks Pearl where she came from, now time has passed and Pearl is a little girl. Pearl replies she doesn’t know and Hester must explain it to her. Hester says she came from the Heavenly Father, but Pearl notices she didn’t sound sure, so denies it and pokes the letter. Her mother reports she herself is and so Pearl is as well, but this doesn’t satisfy the girl, and the question remains unanswered for her.

Hester visits the governors house to give him a gift of embroidered gloves and to discuss whether her child will be taken from her. If the child is evil, to put her away and if she’s able to conform, to put her in the proper hands to learn the ways of society. Due to Hester not being important she isn’t judged by a group delegation, but the governor who deals with all leftover or between-the-crack cases, it is told. A detailed description of the house is given and Pearl is in awe of the property. When a slave for the passage to America- serf opens the door, Hester is told the Governor was indisposed with some guests and Hester makes it plain she’ll wait inside and the serf believes she’s an important lady due to her airs and lets her in, as requested. She waits in a common room and sees a “coffee-table” book lying on a cushion, Chronicles of England (which I learn was a source for Shakespeare; I’m much more intrigued with the possibility of the true story-teller, the Earl of Oxford, whom I now must try and research after seeing “Anonymous”, which is enlightening and would have been interesting seeing in school rather than Shakespeare in Love, which was a waste of a parent’s signature).

The governor has gaudy furniture and a portrait with a disapproving look. A suit of armor is also described in some detail which is so it can be learned the Governor had actually worn it at war, (but definitely not for a noble cause). So Gov. Bellingham, isn’t only a soldier, but transformed into a statesman and ruler, as well. Pearl, who like a hyperactive magpie is drawn to the armor, sees the reflection of her mother’s scarlet letter in it. Hester also sees Pearl’s impish smile reflected in the armor making her think again Pearl could be transforming into a devilish thing or possessed, of course. Hester diverts little Pearl’s attention by getting her to look at the garden which she claimed had more beautiful flowers than the ones they’d seen in the woods. Details of what’s in the garden are shared, and also information of a white settler who was the first in the Boston area to join the Indians after the Puritans arrived “whom he disliked” (I found the information interesting, it being of the few people who didn’t automatically discriminate). Pearl begins crying for a rose when Hester spies the Governor with other men, then screams out of defiance when being told to hush and then does become silent out of curiosity.

Governor Bellingham gets a short description and then a conversation is heard of what fruits would flourish in his garden. Bellingham was considered a nicer visage through his private life more so than in his professional. He had two other guests as well, one of which was Bellingham’s physician and friend. When Bellingham opens the window, Pearl is looking through, he notices her, but not Hester and starts to wonder aloud how Pearl got there. Mr. Wilson asks Pearl who she is, what she is, and why she’s there, seeming to be the recurring theme for the little girl and Pearl answers honestly as usual. He then notices Hester and mentions to Bellingham of this. They speak of Hester disparagingly and start their conversation with Hester when they see her. Bellingham asks Hester how she thinks she can care for Pearl. Hester planned on teaching Pearl what the letter meant and Bellingham informs her about the letter and her shame would be the reason to take Pearl from her, in response. Hester declares to them the letter has taught her and continues to do so and Pearl could become the wiser for it. Bellingham requests the minister to examine Pearl and see if she’s being taught in a Christian-ly way. Pearl isn’t interested in being questioned, so doesn’t answer how she should, as a three year old might, using her imagination and surroundings to influence her answer.

Roger speaks to the minister and Hester sees him in a more ghoulish light to how she used to know him more familiarly. The minister acts shocked by Pearl’s response and believes he’s made his case. Hester sees this as a threat, of course and brings Pearl closer to herself. She expresses to them the importance of her daughter to her and threatens she will die before Pearl is taken from her. The minister tries to seem like Pearl would be better off elsewhere to be cared for more attentively then she can provide. She tries to get Dimmesdale to speak for her side, which he is thrown into a nervous state due to her near madness and got a proper slap of reality to what he had been portrayed as before. He does confirm her arguments and the governor makes him explain. He confirms her words and makes the argument the child could help save Hester’s soul and to leave them as “God intended”. The other men agree Dimmesdale argued well in her favor. Pearl, somehow understanding Dimmesdale’s goodness goes to him and shows him a sign of affection, which surprises Hester since Pearl rarely showed gentleness of any kind. Pearl’s show lasted but the one moment and when Dimmesdale puts his hand on her head and kisses her brow, Pearl giggles and runs off, which again brings talk of whether she’s touched by witchcraft due to seemingly hardly touch the floor in her scampering. They then try to decide whether it’d be “better” or easier to let Providence and prayer make it clear what to do about the situation. Pearl and Hester leave after the decision. Governor Bellingham’s sister asks if Hester will be joining her and others in the forest, which it is ascertained later of she being accused and executed for witchcraft, not so surprisingly in this case. Hester declines happily, since she has Pearl to look after, otherwise she would have joined her to damn her soul if the opposite events had occurred, confirming Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s argument of Pearl saving her mother from more sin.

The next chapter starts with questions of why Hester’s husband would ever come back to her. It is then identified he had changed his name to a man already introduced. It goes on to detail how he’s in the medical profession and the rarity of someone in the same line appearing in the area, so is well-received. He also had knowledge of American native medicines due to his capture and used his knowledge in his profession, as well. Dimmesdale is then perceived to possibly being severely ill due to his paleness and pain in the chest (like Gandhi he had a penchant to fast, repeatedly, though of course it not being what ends up getting Gandhi). Roger Chillingworth spoke of other physician’s and those who studied the occult as if he knew them and held them in scholarly regard.

Meanwhile Dimmesdale grew paler and thinner each week, but insisted he was fine. His superiors finally convince him to see the physician, since he was getting no better and seemed to not care whether he lived, even though he admitted to rather dying than having to be examined if it be God’s will; how magnanimous. Chillingworth grew interested in the younger man’s character and they began to spend more time with one another, mutual interests and such. Due to his chest pains, they began to take walks and talk whilst Chillingworth gathered herbs for his medicine. Dimmesdale found interest in Chillingworth’s expanse of knowledge due to his limited one and appreciated his range of facts. Also since Dimmesdale refused matrimony and was celibate he appreciated more the companionship of Chillingworth. It seemed they both resided in a widow’s house, which was quite accommodating and lived like friendly roommate’s. Chillingworth’s acumen in the “black arts” made people wonder more of his history, which even Hawthorne admits to not knowing everything about; how helpfully useless. Besides, people began noticing changes in Chillingworth whilst he was in town and especially when he started rooming with Dimmesdale. First he seemed calm and collected, then he started to take on aspects considered evil and ugly and grew more apparent the more often they saw him. Everyone began believing Dimmesdale was being haunted by Satan or a demon through Chillingworth. It didn’t bode well for Dimmesdale and it was too early to ascertain if he’d overcome his evil “spectre-possessed” friend.

The next chapter begins with a characterization of Roger Chillingworth who’s exterior was calm, not necessarily warm, but law-abiding. He believed he was starting an “investigation” which was unbiased as to the standpoint a judge gives. Although as he progressed, he began having an obsessive interest which didn’t let go of him since. He sought material from the clergyman and was unable to uncover anything. Sometimes he had an unholy light aflame his eyes and he remained feeling encouraged. He desired to learn even more about Dimmesdale and whilst searching for a plant, Chillingworth wondered if the man buried underneath it must have done something terrible which he hadn’t confessed and Dimmesdale, being the optimist posed perhaps he wanted to and not had the chance before death. The pastor soon smartly brought to his attention this all being theoretical and of Chillingworth’s imagination. Dimmesdale maintained most men get great solace from confessing, whether near death or not and as they sustained those lines of conversation, Hester and Pearl pass by as Pearl was frolicking on a grave and Hester tries to get her to respect the grounds which puts Chillingworth back on the subject of debating the child’s ability to comprehend right from wrong. Pearl hears them and throws one of the burrs she was using to cover Hester at them.

Hester notices them after, and Pearl laughs and shouts to her mother to run away from Chillingworth or he’ll catch her, but he wouldn’t be able to catch Pearl herself. Chillingworth goes on to mention how the possibility of the sickness of Dimmesdale might be to do with his soul and would he disclose it to him if it were, Dimmesdale refusing since he is only a doctor and said only the Holy “Physician” can be in charge of whether he lives or dies, exiting hastily. Chillingworth proceeds to talk to himself supporting his thoughts of pressing the issue on Dimmesdale and thinking it good he responded with such fierceness. Dimmesdale stayed in a state of agitation for awhile and when he calmed, he apologizes to Chillingworth and hopes he still wants to aid him in his health issues. Chillingworth presses on in acting suspiciously, but not directly in a noticeable way to Dimmesdale, and whilst he is having a deeper than normal nap, Chillingworth walks in with purpose and no pretense of caution, checks Dimmesdale and acts joyfully, being construed as more gleeful than Satan when he takes a soul, but with an extra attribute of wonder.

Roger Chillingworth became a main player in Dimmesdale’s “interior world”, making it quite easy to prey and play on his emotions as he saw fit. Chillingworth was able to pull this off in such a way as to be undetected by Dimmesdale, other than presuming it’s cause to his illness, and because he continued his chummy ways with Chillingworth, he was able to perfect his negative reinforcements on Dimmesdale. During this time Dimmesdale became popular in his practice. He became a holy visage by his followers and meanwhile Dimmesdale believed himself cursed and believing whether grass would grow on his grave because of it, whilst his flock wanting to be buried as near to him as possible because of his perceived holiness. His popularity was paining him to the point of wanting to confess to them he’s “a pollution and a lie”. He had wanted to go through with saying something along those lines and had even gone through with a similar speech to be more revered than before.

Then a darker side to Dimmesdale is shown, (similar to the one in The Da Vinci Code), using the scourge upon himself because of his guilt, which wasn’t a part of the faith he was bred into. He also fasted as a penance rather than a purification of his soul as well as beginning to hallucinate visions of evil and angelic qualities for staying up with no rest. He began seeing visions of family and dead friends, then eventually of Hester and Pearl. On one of these sleepless nights he gets a different thought than usual and dressing in his best public worshiping attire leaves his home. The minister walks to the scaffold where Hester was sentenced. He then began wondering about the reason for being drawn to the same spot. He became aware of his agony and couldn’t suppress a shriek of pain, sounding like a host of devils playing with the sound of the scream.

Governor Bellingham and his sister both were seen from their respective windows, but seemed the only ones visibly disturbed by his cry, to his surprise, thinking more notice would be had. Reverend Mr. Wilson passed him after being with a recently departed Governor and Dimmesdale imagined he had spoken to him, but soon realized otherwise as the reverend continued on his way. Dimmesdale began to imagine what the town’s reaction would be if he were found still standing there by morning. His reaction to his imaginings made him laugh hysterically and in response, a laugh sounding like Pearl’s echoed in return, which after noticing Hester, surprised her by being addressed by Dimmesdale and responded she had been at the same deathbed as the reverend for measurements of a robe. Dimmesdale requests them to stand with him on the scaffold. Hester acquiesces and when he holds both their hands, feels revitalized and rejuvenated by them.

Pearl then asks if he will be there with them the next day and Dimmesdale, being reminded of his dislike to public exposure declines, but “one other day” he would. Pearl persists in questioning when and he responds, on “judgement day”. He being a teacher, saw no reason in masking his truth. Pearl laughed as usual in response, anyways and then gave him one of her elf-ish smiles and was pointing to Roger Chillingworth, but didn’t notice due to staring off elsewhere. Chillingworth meanwhile wasn’t hiding his look of malevolence quite well, which Dimmesdale noticed in the light of a meteor passing and seemed to stay as an after-image of the light. He asked Hester who it was, feeling hate and getting the shivers from him. Pearl answers she knew, but only spoke childish gibberish in his ear when given opportunity for her say, then laughs. Dimmesdale asks if she’s mocking him and in reply, Pearl reiterates how he wouldn’t stand with them the next day at noon. Chillingworth, after standing there for so long, states how men of study should be careful of overwork essentially and whether he’d like for him to lead Dimmesdale home. He is told by Chillingworth the reason he was there was because of the Governor, as well and accepts his offer.

On the Sabbath, when Dimmesdale had to do his sermon, a sexton brought his left glove to him, spotting it on the scaffold to Dimmesdale’s surprise, since thinking of the memory as a dream, which the sexton presumed his glove got there by Satan’s hand. Then he asked if he saw the letter “A” in the sky, assuming it meant “Angel” since the Governor was surely one now and Dimmesdale declined in hearing any such thing. Hester meanwhile, was shocked by Dimmesdale’s appearance and mental faculties being drastically changed for the worst. She seemed shaken, but willing to help him since he had been there for her in her greatest hour of need.

A jump forward in time happens, Pearl now seven and Hester having become well known and regarded for her embroidery and made her living as a freelancer to support herself and Pearl. Since Hester is such a force to be reckoned with people begin to refer to her badge, sharing all her services to the community to strangers and would hold back the reason for her wearing the badge due to the many years having passed. The badge had the same effect as a nun’s habit has on thieves: nuns walked safely in the streets. There were even myths of how the badge protected one from an Indian’s arrow. The effect of the badge on Hester was an odd and strong one. She lost her “light and graceful” countenance, which could have made it difficult on friends to accept, if she had any; she had lost her beauty as well. Perhaps partly to do with her repetitive attire and to her lack in demonstrative manners. She covered her hair so often, no one knew if it had been cut off or not. Hester didn’t seem to have a chance at love again because of these physical changes.

The fact Pearl still had some odd behavioral moments sometimes made her question whether it were good or otherwise of her being born at all, but this question preoccupied Hester with all of womanhood. She noticed on the night of Dimmesdale’s vigil she had obtained “a new theme of reflection”. She realized his marked depression, which he had stopped fighting. She also noticed he had crossed the threshold to mania. He had an unnoticed “enemy” whom was with him, dressed as a confidant and aide who took the chance to play with his delicate nature. Hester wondered if she was partly responsible for the minister being thrust into his current predicament of so much negativity, but knew she could do nothing more than accept Chillingworth’s mindful deception. She decided to try and make up for this mistake as much as she could. She was no longer overcome with lack of ability to resist his person as she was on her trial. Chillingworth had since lowered himself below her level because of his selfish revenge. Hester decided to meet him and do what she could to release his grip on Dimmesdale which wasn’t far in the future. On one of her walks with Pearl she sees him searching for herbs for medicinal purposes.

Hester suggests to Pearl to go and play on the shore whilst she approaches Chillingworth. Hester tries to start the conversation, but he takes it over to discuss whether Hester’s badge might be removed and how he was trying to get it done immediately, whilst Hester’s response is indifferent. She was busy noticing the drastic changes in Chillingworth’s countenance and how he lost the look of studious intelligence, all for his enjoyment of “torturing” Dimmesdale. Chillingworth defends her position of not being able to help Dimmesdale those years past and Hester admits he would have been better off dead than being spared by Chillingworth so as not to be jailed outright. Hester asks him whether Dimmesdale hasn’t suffered enough by his hand and his reply expresses he hasn’t only not reached it, but has added to the debt since. Hester tries to convince him he’s wreaked enough havoc and they’re all in the same boat.

Chillingworth contrives satisfaction in Hester’s dark view. He sees Hester’s goodness being wasted and beginning to tire of their conversation, admits to some’s fates happen to walk a darker path than others and goes back to herb-gathering. As Hester watches him walk away and go about his business, she notices his ugliness and age as did all others who saw him, wishing they hadn’t and wondering why the ground he tread didn’t turn dark from his evil, also whether the herbs he collected didn’t sprout as poisonous or being used for terrible reasons. Hester then began realizing how much she hated him, for ever having felt affection and wanting to make him happy (I can relate). She began feeling he’d manipulated her and confirmed her hatred by resolving what he had done to her was much worse than vice versa. Hester calls Pearl back, she amusing herself making ships and playing with the shore-side sea creatures. She then makes an outfit for herself with seaweed and accouterments from the shore to pretend to be a mermaid, plus an A, which she’d become so familiar with.

When Pearl hears Hester call, she runs to her and shows the letter she made for herself, to which Hester asks if she truly knew the meaning, which Pearl takes literally, knowing her alphabet. Pearl then continues, after her mother enquires again, how much she knows about it, she replying Hester could ask the old man she’d been talking to and if it’s in relation to why the minister puts his hand over his heart. Hester debates now if Pearl is old enough to be unload upon some of the truth to her pained reasons for the letter. In the end, she decides against it, also not knowing of the minister’s reasons either and some questions children mustn’t ask. Pearl’s curiosity wanes, but not for long, keeping a steady vigil, asking periodically. Finally tiring of her insistence Hester demands she stop with the intention of putting her in the closet with seriousness she hadn’t felt before (ha-ha).

Hester decides to let Dimmesdale know of Chillingworth’s deception, but wanted to wait for the proper outdoor setting, the reason being described therein. When Hester decides the time has come, she takes Pearl with her, since there’s no one to watch her in her absence. Meanwhile Pearl is chasing the sun which keeps dipping away and to incorporate her curiosity in not knowing the scarlet letter’s meaning still, makes a jape, relating Hester to hang back so she can go catch it because she doesn’t have a letter on her chest and is still a child; precocious little scamp. When they reach the start of the woods to wait, Pearl requests a story which she overheard a woman talking about during a death sitting Hester attended, which brought a “Black man” being the cause of the scarlet letter, to which Hester agrees to confess and admits to being correct. When she hears the approach of Dimmesdale, she sends Pearl away to play near the brook and gathers nature items similarly to her sea-side romp. Dimmesdale is looking more pathetic and feeble with his cane.

Hester gets his attention, to his surprise and they at first question their state of living and then, before getting to the real point, are exceptionally formal and make polite small talk. When they do both realize they are still both struggling to discover peace, Dimmesdale fantasizes about how he wouldn’t be wrenched with guilt were he an Atheist. Hester thinks he would at least sense solace in those who looked up to him, but no, he still found their loyalty making him as miserable as before. She tries to reassure him of the good he’s doing and shouldn’t feel guilty, then finally broached the real reason for her interruption of his solitude. He reacts with great surprise and she confesses her relationship to Chillingworth. He doesn’t take the news well and after a mini-dramatic moment, he reluctantly forgives her. Then asks her how he should go about separating himself from Chillingworth, since he couldn’t bear to continue to live with him now with this knowledge. Hester advises he should definitely move out and suggests he move far from his grasp, but Dimmesdale is too tired and close to death to consider it seriously. She goes on to try and get him to at least consider the possibilities going so far as to mention changing his name, but he couldn’t see it being a valid option, especially being alone, to which Hester says doesn’t have to be. Then she confides more (but the reader not being indulged).

Dimmesdale is now visibly happy and shocked by her forward suggestion, but relieved, most likely since he wouldn’t have dared ask her in kind. He began to feel better with the prospect Hester proposed, and also was happy to share the acquaintance of Pearl. Hester calls her back, she having been properly amusing herself in the forest, though most found it to be dark and depressing, she found the best parts, Native American-esque, having the ability and knowledge of doing so naturally. Then from Pearl’s point of view, back-story of what she encountered and the products of nature she adorned herself with before being called back to meet the minister is given, which is why she approaches slowly.

Then their secret is shared (Hawthorne, you tricky Old English-y word-player, you). Pearl is still taking time to approach her mother and Dimmesdale, eventually pointing at Hester which I deduced was because of her no longer wearing the letter, which she threw away earlier. Hester started feeling estranged between her daughter and herself and continues to try to get Pearl to come more quickly. She finally understands, gets the letter, Pearl acknowledges and listens to Hester when she puts it back on and they approach Dimmesdale, with a little resistance from Pearl. He tries to show affection toward her, too forward for Pearl and proving she wouldn’t be as welcoming to Dimmesdale as Hester thought. She retreats, they talk a little more and all eventually leave, the brook adding another “sad tale” to its babble. Dimmesdale was also pleased to know the ship which would carry them away wouldn’t depart until after his sermon, relieving him of the idea his reputation would be affected by his absence. He is surprised by a visit from Chillingworth who outwardly seems friendly and concerned about his health, but inwardly believes he may have found out about his being his nemesis. Chillingworth offers his medicines to him again which Dimmesdale declines and on his leaving, throws out his old sermon due to the inspiration of a new one.

Hester has brought Pearl to the market-place for the procession of the Election Sermon. When Chillingworth appears and speaks with a ship-master, Hester is amongst the crowd, but has a bubble of space around her caused by the letter’s stigma, which helps when the ship-master comes to speak with her (Society: What a fun concept to be ruled by, eh?). In this case it helps them protect their conversation from being overheard in such close proximity to others. The realization of how much of a right bastard Chillingworth is, becoming clear (makes me wish he would drop dead right there, the smug, stalking, old coot).

Next, Dimmesdale is marching among the rest of the statesmen, but with an air which belies how he’d been feeling all this time, like when one who is ill has a moment of being reinvigorated. After Pearl sees Dimmesdale pass, she asks Hester if it was the same man who had kissed her in the woods. Hester notifies her it wasn’t the time to talk of those matters. Pearl persists with if she had approached him would he have acted the same as in the woods and Hester told her he probably would have told her it wasn’t the time or place, which was the same for her topic of conversation, then Mrs. Hibbons comes up to them. After their short aside, Hester stands by the scaffold to catch Dimmesdale’s sermon. Pearl, meanwhile had grown bored and flitted about the market-place, soon making her way to the ship-master and other mariners, where he gave Pearl the gold chain about his hat and asked her to give her mother a message, which she did (what I grasped of it was, since she couldn’t get Dimmesdale away from Chillingworth, she should thenceforth be thinking only of herself and Pearl).

After Dimmesdale’s speech, he’d lost the exuberance he’d acquired and now seemed even closer to death so much, a “clerical brethren” offered his support as he made his way back from the church. He didn’t accept the old man’s help and walked on towards the scaffold, Hester with Pearl. Bellingham overviews the moment, was going to offer his help as well, but was repelled away by the look on Dimmesdale’s face. Meanwhile Dimmesdale calls Hester and Pearl to him and as she comes forward, Pearl is already wrapping her arms about his legs and Chillingworth steps forward to repel them, knowing and being jealous of the implications. Dimmesdale decides to go up on the scaffold, Hester supports him and Pearl holds his hand, as Chillingworth tails them. He finally announces to the townspeople, in front of all the clergymen what has burdened him and after which seems to be about to die.

Then it’s left open as to whether Chillingworth had afflicted himself with his own scarlet letter upon his breast or if there was any mark on him at all and if there was, if he could have caused it through his potions. It goes on to suppose Hester had taken Pearl away from America and upon Chillingworth’s death had bequeathed Pearl with a hefty part of his estate and later on, Pearl had gone on to marry and stayed close to her mother, even though Hester decided to return and live in New England, to counsel the women who came to her after being judged similarly and how she learned to live beyond it. Strange story, mostly worth the effort; I’ll be looking into other Hawthorne works.


4 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter

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  2. Pingback: The Silver Linings Playbook | Book Fiend

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