“The Scarlet Letter” – Chapter by Chapter

Chapter 1: “The Prison Door” -Setting established: 1600s Puritan settlement of Boston-There is a wild rose bush outside the prison door-Hawthorne hints at the ending of the novel (sad ending)
Chapter 2: “The Market Place” -Fat, unrefined, loud-mouthed ladies in front of the prison bad-mouth Hester (believe she deserves harsher punishment)-Hester walks out for the first time in 3 months with a baby in her arms
Chapter 3: “The Recogniziton” -Hester stands on the Scaffold for punishment-Chillingworth enters town with an Indian (return from capture) and sees her on the scaffold-Bellingham and Dimmesdale try to get Hester to say her fellow sinner’s name, but she refuses-The baby raises her arms when Dimmesdale speaks-At the end, she heads back into the prison and the letter on her chest glows-We recognize that Dimmesdale is the father
Chapter 4: “The Interview” -Chillingworth, under the guise of a doctor, visits Hester-Gives Hester and Pearl (who had been throwing a fit), medicine-Chillingworth says he and Hester have both wronged each other (he by marrying her, she by committing adultery)-Hester promises that she will keep his true identity a secret
Chapter 5: “Hester at her Needle” -Hester and her daughter, Pearl, live in an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of town-Hester is a seamstress: her works are elaborate and beautiful (everyone covets them), but she cannot touch wedding veils-Ostracized by her community-Hester’s letter gives her the ability to see the sins of others
Chapter 6: “Pearl” -Pearl is an impish child-She doesn’t get along with other children since they torment her-She seems messed up, but it’s really her circumstances that make it so she’s abnormal
Chapter 7: “The Governor’s Hall” -Hester and Pearl go to visit Governor Bellingham because Hester heard Pearl might be taken from her-Pass by children who torment them, so Pearl scares them by throwing a tantrum-The mansion is beautiful and ornate (HYPOCRISY)-Find men in the garden
Chapter 8: “The Elf-Child and the Minister” -Bellingham, John Wilson (a pastor), Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale are in the garden-Discuss taking Pearl away from Hester-Hester forces Dimmesdale to defend her-His speech convinces the others to let Hester keep Pearl-Chillingworth begins to suspect Dimmesdale due to the passion of his speech-Pearl rests Dimmesdale’s hand on her cheek-Mistress Hibbins invites Hester to go to the forest to sign the Black Man’s book, but Hester refuses-Pearl is Hester’s salvation and only possession
Chapter 9: “The Leech” -Dimmesdale’s health is failing him: he is pale and thin, as if he’s wasting away-Chillingworth is Dimmesdale’s “medical adviser”-Chillingworth comes to live with Dimmesdale (rent rooms from a widow) to “oversee his health”-Chillingworth is first seen as a blessing to the town; however, as time progresses, the townspeople begin to believe that he is evil/the Devil himself, come to test Dimmesdale’s purity
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” -Chillingworth is plucking weeds from the graveyard, off the unmarked grave of a sinner-Chillingworth tries to pry into Dimmesdale’s private life, but the minister refuses to speak since he is suspicious of Chillingworth-Spirituality is connected to physical health-Chillingworth sees something on Dimmesdale’s chest while he is sleeping that confirms his suspicious: Dimmesdale is Hester’s fellow sinner
Chapter 11: “The Interior of a Heart” -Chillingworth is playing mind games with Dimmesdale to torment him-Dimmesdale feels wary about Chillingworth, but ignores his gut intuition and dismisses his feelings under the premise that he doesn’t know why he is wary of the old man-The congregation loves Dimmesdale and idolizes him, so they do not believe him when he indirectly confesses his sin-Dimmesdale whips himself, starves/fasts, and holds long vigils overnight (stare in mirror) to punish himself for his sin
Chapter 12: “The Minister’s Vigil” -Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold and confesses, but nobody is there to hear him (mistake his cry for that of a witch)-Wilson passes from Governor Winthrop’s deathbed and doesn’t notice Dimmesdale-Hester and Pearl notice Dimmesdale (were out to measure Winthrop for burial robe) and are invited to join him on the scaffold; they hold hands and Dimmesdale feels happy-Dimmesdale refuses Pearl (stand on scaffold the next day at noon: “Will hold hands on judgement day”)-Chillingworth coaxes Dimmesdale down from the scaffold-A meteor lights up the sky and forms the letter “A”; town thinks it’s a sign that Winthrop is an angel, but Dimmesdale see it as God’s disapproval
Chapter 13: “Another View of Hester” -Hester has become “Able” and respected for her work-Hides her hair now-Hester has become a feminist-She decides to meet with Chillingworth and ask him to stop tormenting Dimmesdale
Chapter 14: “Hester and the Physician” -Hester meets Chillingworth near the beach and asks him to stop torturing Dimmesdale; he refuses-Chillingworth has morphed from a wise, mortal man to a fiend-Hester resolves to tell Dimmesdale the truth about Chillingworth’s identity
Chapter 15: “Hester and Pearl” -Hester reflects on her conversation with Chillingworth as Pearl plays-Pearl seems to harshly treat the sea creatures, but when she seriously injures a bird, she stops-Pearl is in the sun, but everyone else is in the shadow-Pearl makes an “A” out of seaweed and asks Hester what the letter means-Hester refuses to tell her; refuses to take away her innocence
Chapter 16: “A Forest Walk” -Hester and Pearl wait in the forest for Dimmesdale, who is coming back from a neighboring Indian village-Pearl is playing with the animals in the forest-Pearl’s life is like the brook in the river: of unknown origin and surrounded by sadness-Dimmesdale comes: he is walking so slowly and looks deathly ill
Chapter 17: “The Pastor and his Parishioner” -Dimmesdale doubts that he can save other souls when he is so full of sin-Hester claims that Dimmesdale has atoned for his sins by moving on and doing good for others-Hester tells Dimmesdale that Chillingworth is her husband-The two begin to plan their escape to Europe
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine” -Hester throws off the letter and lets down her hair, returning to her former beauty and happiness-The sun finally shines on her; God’s approval-The two agree to runaway together
Chapter 19: “The Child at the Brook Side” -Pearl refuses to cross the brook and come to Hester; throws a temper tantrum until Hester puts up her hair and puts the letter on-Pearl asks Dimmesdale if he will walk hand and hand with her and Hester back into town; he rejects her-Pearl rebuffs Dimmesdale’s kiss by washing it in the stream
Chapter 20: “The Minister in a Maze” -When Dimmesdale returns to town, he is a changed, healthier man due to now obtaining happiness-He, Hester, and Pearl plan to escape to Europe by ship in 3 days time (since living with Indians would be too harsh on Dimmesdale’s health and he he better suited for European society)-He is tempted to tell a deacon something blasphemous, tell a women seeking comfort there was no afterlife, proposition a young women, and teach children some bad words-Mistress Hibbins notes that he has been to the forest and suggests that he has made a deal with the Black Man (SHE KNOWS!)-Dimmesdale scraps his Elected Sermon and eagerly rewrites it all through the night, which peaks Chillingworth’s interest
Chapter 21: “The New England Holiday” -Hester is dressed in gray, Pearl is dressed exquisitely-Puritanism seems to be plain and not a lot of fun-Mariners are not like Puritans since they are not bound by any strict rules and regulations; they are free-The ship captain tells Hester that Chillingworth will join them on the ship-Hester looks up and sees Chillingworth smiling at her
Chapter 22: “The Procession” -Inauguration of the new governor-Pearl and Hester note that Dimmesdale seems different-Pearl is tempted to kiss Dimmesdale, but is stopped by Hester and her fear of rejection-Mistress Hbbins professes to Hester that Dimmesdale will soon be marked like Hester is for his sin-The ship captain tells Pearl to tell Hester that Chillingworth will see to Dimmesdale, so she only needs to worry about herself and Pearl-The youngest woman, who defended Hester in the beginning of the novel, is dead
Chapter 23: “The Revelation” -The crowd loved Dimmesdale’s Elected Sermon on God and his relationship with mankind-Dimmesdale asks Pearl and Hester to join him on the scaffold and confesses his sin-Chillingworth tries to stop him, but fails-Dimmesdale accepts Pearl-Pearl accepts Dimmesdale; she kisses him and finally gains her identity (and fulfills her role as a “messenger of anguish”)-Dimmesdale reveals a mark on his chest and falls dead
Chapter 24: “Conclusion” -People debate over Dimmesdale’s “A”: Some say it was self-inflicted, some say Chillingworth’s medicine caused it, some say it was the manifestation of his guilt/sin, some say it was never there-People still can’t believe Dimmesdale is a sinner because they idolized him so much-Chilingworth dies a year later and wills all his possessions to Pearl (gives her power/money)-Pearl and Hester depart for Europe; Hester alone returns still wearing the letter later, likely so she will be buried with Dimmesdale-It is implied that Pearl is happily married and has children (Hester is making a baby garment)-The scarlet letter has lost its negative meaning-The women in town accept Hester and go to her for advice as to how to deal with their sins-Hester dies and is buried next to Dimmesdale; they have the same headstone

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