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Analysis of Key Chapters in The Scarlet Letter

Several chapters in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne are critical to the shaping of the story. Hester Prynne is an extreme sinner in the eyes of Puritan society in the 1640s; she has gone against the Bible, committing adultery. Hester is forced to live on the dirty outskirts of Boston. For committing the sin of adultery, Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter, “A” for adultery. Hester stood alone in her sin, the father of her child, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale refused to confess. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingsworth came back to Boston and found Hester with her baby Pearl. Eventually, Dimmesdale confessed to his mutual sin and died. Many chapters in the book play essential roles. Three of these chapters in The Crucible shape the book and how the characters interact. These chapters are XV, XVII, and XXIII, respectively.

In a naïve blur, Hester married Chillingsworth, and she resents him for allowing the marriage to happen. In chapter XV, Hester realizes that she hates her husband, Roger Chillingsworth; her only happiness came from earlier delusion. Hester finds Pearl in a tide pool pretending to be a mermaid, but one thing throws Hester off- Pearl has an “A” on her chest made of grass. Pearl wants Hester to ask her what is it, and Hester talks to Pearl about the “A”, but since Pearl is so young, she cannot fully grasp adultery, sex, and shame, but she understands that the “A” is something her mother has always had. Pearl also makes the connection between the “A” on her mother’s chest, and Dimmesdale always grabbing at his heart. For the next few days, Pearl consistently asks her mother about the letter and why Dimmesdale is always clutching his heart. The easiest explanation Hester is able to give Pearl is that she had a meeting with the “black man” and that was her mark. Pearl is able to distinguish a small connection between Dimmesdale and Hester, but it is not until later in the book that Pearl understands fully.

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After years of scorn, Hester and Dimmesdale met in the woods and decided that they should move to Europe to escape the harsh treatment of the Puritan society. Both Hester and Dimmesdale felt joyous, and Hester smiled and threw the “A” from off of her breast. For the first time in the book, we see Hester without the “A”. This is very significant because, without her stigma, she regains her beauty. Another first in the book is sunlight- we finally see the sunlight hitting Hester. Hester finally seems content, and she lets her hair out of her cap. When they moved to Europe, they would finally be able to make a family, and Pearl would for the first time get to know her father. When Pearl came back and found her mother and Dimmesdale together, she is unable to recognize her mother. Pearl may have seen the abandonment of the “A” as an abandonment of herself. She hardly knew her mother anymore with her sudden change of heart. This chapter shows the reader that Hester is starting to change her outlook on life- she is now a more positive person with things to look forward to.

Chapter XXIII presents to the reader the third scaffold scene in the book. It takes place on Election Day, the day that Hester and Dimmesdale were supposed to sail away back to Europe. Dimmesdale gave his Election Day sermon, the sermon that was the minister’s best, most inspired, and most truthful ever. After the sermon, Dimmesdale sees Hester and is hesitant, but he calls her and Pearl up to the scaffold with him. He is weak, but began, calling himself “the one sinner of the world.” After the confession has concluded, Dimmesdale starts stripping himself of his ministerial clothes, exposing his mark (not clearly stated). He sinks to the ground and is given a kiss from Hester, then dies. This chapter shows the definitive ending to the story, Dimmesdale finally confesses, Pearl received a father, and Chillingsworth lost his chance for revenge. By willing his own death, Dimmesdale is also given another sin. Dimmesdale taught that if he was able to sin, then all men have the potential for evil. An ending for the book is established and closure between the book’s protagonist and the antagonist is found.

Throughout The Scarlet Letter, many different aspects of the characters are established. Hester finds sin and is under the spell of shunning for all her years. Pearl finally gains a father, but it is too late. Dimmesdale dwindles away in his pain for many years before his confession, and his confession saw the end of him. Roger Chillingsworth was disappointed that he could not inflict more pain upon Dimmesdale, but it is only out of spite and jealousy. The chapters that are represented here were the most definitive. The morals of sin and hypocrisy in the Puritan society were also key in the shaping of how Hester Prynne was treated. The themes that were found in chapters 15, 18 and 23 were the most vital to the book, and without them, the novel would not have been complete or explained enough.

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Analysis of Key Chapters in The Scarlet Letter. (2021, Mar 02). Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/analysis-of-key-chapters-in-the-scarlet-letter/