The Scarlet Letter Chapter 21 Summary

Instructor: Molly Richards

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

After making plans with the Reverend Dimmesdale to leave for Europe, Hester Prynne learns some news that could change everything and ruin their chance of starting a new life.


Three days, that is all Hester and Dimmesdale need to make it through before they can leave for Europe and start a new life. Three days!! What could go wrong? Election Day is in three days and the entire town will turn out to hear Dimmesdale's sermon, one that will be his last. While working on it, Roger Chillingworth enters and Dimmesdale tells him he will no longer need him. Chillingworth acts suspicious but leaves. Will Chillingworth have a hand in changing Hester's and Dimmesdale's fate in the remaining time?

A New Hester and an Inquisitive Pearl

The town prepares for Election Day, a holiday in the colony to celebrate a new governor. Hester Prynne wears the gray dress she always wears for public holidays, with the bright red letter A on her chest. In the past when she had worn this outfit, she faded into the background, as if she were a ghost. On this occasion however, it was a different woman wearing the same dress. While walking through the streets she wanted to shout ''Look your last on the scarlet letter and its wearer!''

Her daughter Pearl, on the other hand, was dressed brightly, especially compared to her mother's grayness. Her outfit suited her personality, and she was even more excited when they reached the town center and it seemed livelier than its usual dull self. Pearl questions all the excitement and her mother tells her the whole town is taking the day off to welcome the new governor. Pearl asks if the minister will be there and if he will now hold her hand like he did in the forest, but her mother says not yet. Pearl, wise beyond her years, inquires about the strangeness of him. He acts one way in the darkness of the forest or holding their hands on the scaffold long ago, but now, in town he will pretend that he does not know them. She calls him ''a strange sad man . . . with his hand always over his heart.''

The Crowd

The crowd that gathered to greet the new governor was a diverse one, one that would never be seen in Old World England. Amongst the Puritans were the Native Americans in their colorful clothes as well as the Spanish Seamen with their swords, beards, and huge hats. The conservative Puritans, in their conservative black clothes and hats stood side by side with these groups, and didn't even question when Roger Chillingworth was seen walking with the commander of the Spanish vessel, or ship.

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