Hester Prynne Although The Scarlet Letter is about Hester Prynne, the book is not so much a consideration of her innate character as it is an examination of the forces that shape her and the transformations those forces effect.
Adopting the attitude of a judge seeking truth and justice, he quickly becomes fiercely obsessed by his search into Dimmesdale's heart. He is frequently discouraged in his attempts to pry loose Dimmesdale's secret, but he always returns to his "digging" with all his intelligence and passion.
Most of Chapter 10 concerns the pulling and tugging by Chillingworth at the heart and soul of Dimmesdale. One day in Chillingworth's study, they are interrupted in their earnest discussion by Pearl and Hester's voices outside in the graveyard. They comment on Pearl's strange behavior and then return to their discussion.
Watching Hester and Pearl depart, Dimmesdale agrees with Chillingworth that Hester is better off with her sin publicly displayed than she would be with it concealed.
When Chillingworth renews his probing of Dimmesdale's conscience, suggesting that he can never cure Dimmesdale as long as the minister conceals anything, the minister says that his sickness is a "sickness of the soul" and passionately cries out that he will not reveal his secret to "an earthly physician.
One day, not long afterward, Chillingworth finds Dimmesdale asleep in a chair. Pulling aside the minister's vestment, he stares at the clergyman's chest.
What he sees there causes "a wild look of wonder, joy, and horror," and he does a spontaneous dance of ecstasy.
Analysis This chapter allows the reader to witness Chillingworth's evil determination to accomplish his revenge on and to increase the painful inner suffering of young Arthur Dimmesdale. The reader is also given the best insight yet into the nature of Dimmesdale's tortured battle with himself.
Clearly, the struggle within his soul is destroying him, as evidenced by his physical appearance and his mental anguish, yet he still cannot confess his role in the adulterous affair with Hester. It should be noted that Dimmesdale articulates his justification for his silence, but, in the face of Chillingworth's diabolical logic and questioning intended to manipulate the minister into a confession of his sin, Dimmesdale breaks off the colloquy.
Hawthorne refers in this chapter to Chillingworth's earlier reputation as once a "pure and upright man. Just as he was earlier connected to the devil by soot and fire, now Hawthorne uses an allusion to the door of hell in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and a reference to the breach of physician-patient relationship and trust in describing Chillingworth as "a thief entering a chamber where a man lies only half asleep" to further emphasize his evilness.
The methodical and devious scholar argues by example and innuendo that Dimmesdale should not die with sin on his conscience; confession will offer him relief in this life and the next. He further argues that the minister cannot serve his fellow man while he has terrible secrets in his soul. Dimmesdale at first resists these arguments saying that they are all fantasy.
He feels that people have been able to help their fellow men despite spotted consciences. The minister is a match for Chillingworth until a new sound enters the room.
Pearl's voice comes through the chamber window. She is skipping about on the gravestones in the cemetery and even dancing on one. While Hester tries to restrain her, Pearl will not be controlled by human rules.
She calls out to her mother that the minister is already in the grip of the Black Man, and she mischievously throws the burrs at him that she has been using to decorate her mother's token of sin.
Chillingworth says, "There is no law, nor reverence for authority, no regard for human ordinances or opinions, right or wrong, mixed up in that child's composition. The young minister agrees, but remains steadfast in his refusal to confess to an earthly doctor rather than talking with God.
Because of Chillingworth's constant probing, Dimmesdale becomes angry and rushes from the room. Later, the minister is asleep in a chair and Chillingworth makes his dark discovery. The spectacular but mysterious reference to Dimmesdale's chest, at the end of the chapter, is an important "clue" that we should remember when we reach Chapter At this point, Chillingworth has identified his quarry.
In this chapter, Hawthorne further develops an important thematic purpose by establishing a firm connection between the body and the soul, the external representation of the inner character "A strange sympathy betwixt soul and body". The reader is explicitly lead to interpret the appearances and actions of the characters symbolically with the description of Chillingworth's appearance and actions as he uncovers the secret that lay on Dimmesdale's bosom.
The major characters, in fact, are more important as symbols than real people. If their actions seem extraordinary or preternatural to one's sense of reality, he should look carefully to the development of the symbol where objects "loose their actual substance, and become things of intellect.A summary of Themes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Sin, Knowledge, and the Human Condition.
Sin and knowledge are linked in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve, who were expelled. The Scarlet Letter Exploring Sin, Knowledge, and the Human Condition Directions: The characters debate the embodiment of evil and also try to discern the causes of evil.
C. Pearl Although Pearl is a complex character, her main function within the novel is as a symbol. Pearl is a sort of living version of her mother's scarlet letter. She is the physical consequence of sexual sin and the indicator of a transgression. A summary of Themes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
The Scarlet Letter. Unit. Research Paper Topic Options.
Characterization: 1. “Chillingworth is the most corrupt and corrupting character in the novel.” Prove that he distorts and destructively uses both the beauty of the natural world and the innate justice of the human world to do so. 2. But Dimmesdale offers us a hierarchy of sin—a crime of passion, like the one he and Hester committed, isn't nearly as bad as betraying the human heart by mercilessly plotting to destroy a man.
That earns you a mark from the Black Man himself—without all the pretty embroidery.