The Scarlet Letter Chapter 10 Summary

Instructor: Molly Richards

Molly has ten years of middle school teaching experience and two master's degrees in teaching.

In ''The Scarlet Letter'', Hester wears her shame publicly as the letter 'A'. Others, such as Dimmesdale, have to bear guilt secretly. As seen in chapter 10, this is often a much worse fate.

Leading up to Chapter Ten

After arriving in Boston to find his wife being publicly shamed for the sin of adultery, Roger Chillingworth pretends to not know her and swears her to secrecy while he begins a new life. His wife Hester gets to wear the scarlet 'A', be publicly shamed by the community, keep the secret of the person with whom she had an affair, and has to pretend like she has no idea who this Chillingworth is. In the meantime, Chillingworth begins providing medical care to Reverend Dimmesdale but suspects there is more to his health problems. He convinces the town leaders to let him and Dimmesdale move into a boarding house together so that he can spend more time with the reverend.

Chapter Ten

After moving into the same house, Chillingworth and the reverend begin spending almost all of their time together. The two talk, among other things, about the plants and weeds that Chillingworth uses in his medicinal practices.

One day Dimmesdale notices a strange weed and asks Chillingworth where he found it. Chillingworth tells him that it was growing on a grave, and then proceeds to get metaphorical with the reverend. He tells him that the weed probably represents the sins that the man should have confessed while he was still alive. The two then begin a conversation about confession and asking forgiveness. Back and forth they argue; in the meantime the reverend clutches his chest in pain and purposefully changes the subject back to his health. Both of these actions by the reverend allude to the fact that something about the conversation is making him a little uneasy. Maybe he is getting nervous about weeds on his future grave?

They suddenly hear laughter in the distance and look out to see Hester and her daughter Pearl walking. Pearl is laughing, dancing on graves, and picking up prickly burr bushes to arrange them around the letter ''A'' on her mother's dress. Pearl sees the men and cries out for her and her mother to leave before the ''old Black Man'' catches her. She says that he already has the minister and will get Hester if she doesn't leave. Chillingworth wonders whether Pearl is evil.

After Hester and Pearl leave, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale go back to their conversation about confession, and discuss Hester's wearing of the letter ''A''. Does this make it easier or harder for her to bear the shame of her sins? Of course no one asked Hester before she was told to wear it, but their conversation continues on.

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