The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hester, who has remained in love with Dimmesdale, is extremely distressed by the man she encountered on the scaffold. She sees that he has become a weakened shell of the man that he once was. She also believes that it is her duty to help him. She seems to attribute a large part of this decline to Chillingworth, which conveniently ignores the fact that Dimmesdale had revealed himself to be a very weak man long before Chillingworth ever met him. After all, throughout Hester’s pregnancy and for the first three months of Pearl’s life, he had the opportunity to reveal himself as Pearl’s father, but failed to do so. However, Hester views a tremendous decline in him from the man she knew. Hester decides that she will intervene on Dimmesdale’s behalf with Chillingworth, to see if she can help end his torment of Dimmesdale.
Hawthorne contrasts the changes in Dimmesdale with the changes in Hester. Both have been elevated in the community as a result of their suffering. While Hester remains an outcast, she has taken on an important caregiving role in the community, with people turning to her for help while continuing to shun her in public company. She is seen as an incredibly competent person, with the “A” on her chest now symbolizing “able.” However, her elevation in the community has largely been the result of how she has borne the public shaming, and the fact remains that she is friendless and loveless among the community. In addition, Hester was once known as a true beauty, but she has grown cold, harsh, and plain-looking, much as the Puritans themselves seemed cold, harsh, and plain. In contrast, Dimmesdale’s private suffering has brought him a tremendous amount of public regard in the community. Yet, while he may be acknowledged by people and welcome anywhere in the community, like Hester, he has no true friends and no real love.
In addition, it is important to understand that the narrator distinguishes between how Hester portrays herself to the community and her...Sign up to continue reading Chapter 13 to Chapter 18 >