Chapter 20 Notes from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 20

As Dimmesdale leaves Hester and Pearl in the forest, he has to look back to assure himself that his encounter with the two had been real. To further reassure himself of the reality, he thinks through the plans he and Hester have made. Hester will secure passage and secrecy for the three on a Spanish pirate ship that is in port and set to leave in four days. Dimmesdale is pleased with this plan because his Election Sermon, given on the opening day of the legislature, is set for the day before the boat's departure. "'At least, they shall say of me,' thought this exemplary man, 'that I leave no public duty unperformed, nor ill performed!'" Chapter 20, pg. 197.

With his meeting with Hester behind him, Dimmesdale finds a new reserve of energy which follows him through encounters with some of his parishioners. First, Dimmesdale meets the deacon, and they converse about the communion supper.

Dimmesdale passes others in his parish, and struggles similarly. Lastly, he encounters Mistress Hibbins. She notices that the Reverend has been to the forest, and encourages him to go with her next time.

Topic Tracking: Truth 6

After this encounter, Dimmesdale reaches his apartment, and goes inside quickly, glad to be alone. As he peruses his desk, complete with his half-written Election Sermon, Chillingworth knocks on the door. Dimmesdale refuses Chillingworth's ensuing offer of a physician's treatment today, and "The physician knew then, that, in the minister's regard, he was no longer a trusted friend, but his bitterest enemy." Chapter 20, pg. 204. After Chillingworth leaves, without saying any of his thoughts aloud, the reverend eats a large meal, throws his half-written Election Day sermon away, and starts a new one. He spends the entire night writing an inspired, lengthy sermon.

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