The Scarlet Letter Chapter 18 Summary

Instructor: Molly Richards

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

In chapter 18 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's ''The Scarlet Letter'', the plot takes an exciting twist when Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale decide their fate. Additionally, they plan for Pearl to meet her father.

Quick Look at the Previous Chapter

After meeting in the forest, Hester Prynne reveals to the Reverend Dimmesdale that Roger Chillingworth is actually her husband. Although the Reverend is upset with her at first for keeping this secret for the past seven years, he forgives her. Hester then shares a plan with the Reverend for the two of them and Pearl to move to Europe. They could escape the shame and guilt and start fresh as a family of three.

Chapter 18: Confidence

Seven years of wearing the scarlet letter has given Hester Prynne confidence. She shows this when she shares her plan to leave with the Reverend Dimmesdale. In fact, it seems so bold that it takes Dimmesdale by surprise and makes him feel uneasy. But Hester has been outcast by society; the town has turned their back on her, she wears her shame publicly on her chest, and she has nothing left except Pearl. Although the scarlet letter is seen by others as a symbol of sin and guilt, it has been Hester's ticket to freedom. ''Shame, despair, solitude! These had been her teachers...'' Hawthorne states. Hester's punishment has toughened her up and taught her to rely on herself, unlike Dimmesdale whose secret has burned a slow hole into his soul.

Chapter 18: Guilt

Dimmesdale really has to deal with double the guilt. Not only is he as guilty as Hester for their sins seven years prior, but Hester refused to give up his name when asked who Pearl's father is. Hester protected Dimmesdale and took all of the public shame on herself. Dimmesdale has yet to stand up for his sins, and that guilt wears on his health and his spirit. Additionally, being loved by his congregation only makes it worse.

But then Dimmesdale realizes that there is no hope for peace in his heart, and there hasn't been for the past seven years. He has nothing left and nothing to lose by going to Europe. And, if there is the slightest chance that Europe could provide something better then he should go. He doesn't want to live any longer without Hester, so he agrees.

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