The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Chapters 17-20

³Arthur Dimmesdale put forth his hand, chill as death, and touched the chill hand of Hester Prynne. The grasp, cold as it was, took away what was dreariest in the interview. They now felt themselves, at least, inhabitants of the same sphere.´(186,The Pastor and His Parishioner) In this quote we see Hester and Dimmesdale in an intimate setting. Hester is moved to call the minister by his first name, and the two join hands. They refer to the initial days of their romance as a blessing. This suggests that they see their sin as having been no more than the fulfillment of a natural law. Up to this point, Hawthorne withheld any romance in the couple¶s relationship from the reader, which enabled him to focus on the themes of punishment and social order.

³She was responsible to this unhappy man, in permitting him to lie for so many years, or, indeed, for a single moment, at the mercy of one, whose purposes could not be other than malevolent« Roger Chillingworth,²the secret poison of his malignity, infecting all the air about him,²and his authorized interference, as a physician, with the minister¶s physical and spiritual infirmities,²that these bad opportunities had been turned to a cruel purpose.´(189, The Pastor and His Parishioner) In this quote Dimmesdale introduces a hierarchy of sin for the first time. He directly proclaims that Chillingworth¶s vengefulness is far worse than any adultery. This is the first official recognition in the text of any sort of alternative to the Puritan order.

³Arthur Dimmesdale gazed into Hester¶s face with a look in which hope and joy shone out, indeed, but with fear betwixt them, and a kind of horror at her boldness, who had spoken what he vaguely hinted at, but dared not speak.´(195,A Flood of Sunshine) In this quote is unclear whether he and Hester have made the right decision or are entering into further sin. Hester has been able to think for herself, thanks to the scarlet letter and its bout of shame, Despair isolation. She seems to have developed an understanding of the natural law of the Puritans, and it is according to her instinctive principles that she decides that she, Dimmesdale, and Pearl should flee to Europe. Hester is breaking the Puritan rules for the sake of happiness.

³I see the child,´ observed the minister. ³Yonder she is, standing in a streak of sunshine, a good way off, on the other side of the brook. So thou thinkest the child will love me?´ (200, A Flood of Sunshine)

scattered thinly along the seaboard. with its alternatives of an Indian wigwam. he recalled and more thoroughly defined the plans which Hester and himself had sketched for their departure. or the few settlements of Europeans. it becomes apparent that she is right to be skeptical. she naturally connects them. When she forces Hester to reattach the letter to her breast.The Minister in a Maze) This quote shows that Hester and Dimmesdale are not going according to a newer.´( 207. there was a sense of inevitable doom upon her. However. It had been determined between them. thus. which is impossible. signifying that nature and God approve of their plan. Hester believes that Pearl will provide the cement for her illegitimate relationship with Dimmesdale because. we three together.Pearl represents truth. She asks Dimmesdale to publicly acknowledge his relationship to her. Dimmesdale is attempting to essentially run away from his sin. Hester doubtlessly looks different. ³She advanced to the margin of the brook. when Hester beckons Pearl to come to her. offered them a more eligible shelter and concealment than the wilds of New England. which vexed it with a strange disquietude. that the Old World. took up the scarlet letter. as she thus received back this deadly symbol from the hand of fate. dear child. Hester¶s beauty immediately dissipates. into the town?´ « ³Not now. happier version of her mother. the child does not recognize her own mother. ³Will he go back with us. Pearl reads her mother¶s abandonment of the scarlet letter as a sign of her own abandonment. as Hester had spoken of drowning it in the deep sea. but a moment ago. ³Doth he love us?´ said Pearl. and he refuses. Yet. as their child. or all America. but are instead trying to find new ways to defy the same old social Puritan rules.´(210 .The Child at The Brookside) The sun shines on the couple when Hester removes the scarlet letter. better moral code. enables his guilt to grow even more. Hester and Dimmesdale are struggling to find the difference between social identity and their own individual identity. Hopefully. hand in hand. This shows that Dimmesdale is not ready to reveal his sin.´ (208. The Child at The Brookside) Once Pearl rejoins her parents. ³In order to free his mind from this indistinctness and duplicity of impression. and fastened it again into her bosom. looking up with acute intelligence into her mother¶s face. with its crowds and cities. Pearl cannot accept this new. .

³Imparting to religion the warmth of love. throughout the chapter. had surely led the poor young girl away from her mother¶s side. the arch-fiend whispered him to condense into small compass and drop into her tender bosom a germ of evil that would be sure to blossom darkly soon. Satan. and thrown her into the pathway of this sorely tempted. and to love a religious purity. and bear black fruit betimes. His devilish impulses. might be spiritual revelations. As she drew nigh. They could also be sinister lies that will lead to his damnation. The Minister in a Maze) After his time in the forest Dimmesdale questioned every aspect of his existence.´(215. or²shall we not rather say?²this lost and desperate man. that afternoon. This quote shows that Dimmesdale is walking a fine line between revelation and knowledge and destruction and evil . .

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