Book Notes Chapter 17 Notes from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 17

Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale meet and speak in the forest. First, they question each other's bodily existence, and slowly retreat away from the forest path, out of sight. Dimmesdale speaks about the lie that is his life, as Hester tries to comfort and reassure him. He does say, "Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years' cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!" Chapter 17, pg. 176.

Hester decides to take a big step, and tells Arthur who Roger Chillingworth really is, to explain why Dimmesdale has felt that there was evil lurking around him:

"'I might have known it,' murmured he. 'I did know it!' Was not the secret told me, in the natural recoil of my heart, at the first sight of him, and as often as I have seen him? Why did I not understand? O Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame! - the indelicacy! - the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, thou art accountable for this! I cannot forgive thee!'" Chapter 17, pg. 178.

Hester begs for forgiveness, and throws herself into a tight embrace with Arthur. After a long silence, Arthur does forgive her. He says that they aren't the worst sinners in the world; Roger Chillingworth is worse than either of them. Hester and Dimmesdale then realize they must leave Chillingworth, as well as the whole settlement of Boston behind. Hester convinces Dimmesdale that he must change his name and leave with her and Pearl for a new life in Europe.

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