Chapter 10 Notes from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 10

Chillingworth remains very suspicious of Dimmesdale. He pursues many careful but insistent conversations, trying to find a way to get Dimmesdale to confess to his sin, but also making very sure that he does not let Dimmesdale suspect that Chillingworth is trying to do anything of the sort. Chillingworth senses a secret animal side in Dimmesdale and wishes to reveal it. Dimmesdale, unfortunately, cannot recognize what Chillingworth is doing: "Trusting no man as his friend, he could not recognize his enemy when the latter actually appeared." Chapter 10, pg. 120.

Topic Tracking: Wild 5

One day Chillingworth returns from a walk to gather herbs and plants with a dark, wilted leaf. Dimmesdale asks him where he found it. "'Even in the graveyard here at hand....They are new to me. I found them growing on a grave, which bore no tombstone, nor other memorial of the dead man, save these ugly weeds, that have taken upon themselves to keep him in remembrance. They grew out of his heart, and typify, it may be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and which he had done better to confess during his lifetime.' 'Perchance,' said Mr. Dimmesdale, 'he earnestly desired it, but could not.'" Chapter 10, pg. 120.

During this conversation, Pearl and Hester approach the cemetery, which Chillingworth's apartment overlooks. Pearl collects burrs from the side of a grave and sticks them to Hester's Scarlet Letter. She also throws one at Dimmesdale, who is looking at the two women from a second floor window. This gesture causes Hester to look up as well, and the four people are caught all staring at each other. Pearl breaks the silence by saying, "Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Come away, mother, or he will catch you! But he cannot catch little Pearl!" Chapter 10, pg. 123.

Topic Tracking: Law 8
Topic Tracking: Truth 5

After Pearl and Hester leave, Chillingworth again tries, this time more directly, to get Dimmesdale to tell him what ails him. Dimmesdale refuses, saying, "But, if it be the soul's disease, then do I commit myself to the one Physician of the soul!...But who are thou, that meddlest in this matter? - that dares thrust himself between the sufferer and his God?" Chapter 10, pp. 125-6. Dimmesdale runs from the room, and the two men do not speak for days.

A few days later, Chillingworth finds Dimmesdale fast asleep in a chair at midday. Chillingworth jumps at this chance to examine Dimmesdale, something he has not been given permission to do at any other time. Chillingworth gently lifts Dimmesdale's shirt, and takes an extended look at the minister's chest, then turns away. "But with what a wild look of wonder, job, and horror! With what a ghastly rapture...making itself even riotously manifest by the extravagant gesture with which he threw up his arms towards the ceiling, and stamped his foot upon the floor! Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom." Chapter 10, pg. 127. Chillingworth sees a deep scar that Dimmesdale has carved into his own chest.

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