Chapter 23 Notes from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 23

Dimmesdale's sermon ends, and the crowd inside the church speaks in rapture about the sermon. Yet, as Dimmesdale leaves the church, the people take on a subdued tone: "The glow, which they had just before beheld burning on his cheek, was extinguished, like a flame that sinks down hopelessly among the late-decaying embers. It seemed hardly the face of a man alive, with such a deathlike hue; it was hardly a man with life in him that tottered on his path so nervelessly, yet tottered, and did not fall!" Chapter 23, pg. 228.

Topic Tracking: Burning 8

The Reverend Wilson, worried about Dimmesdale's health, walks toward him to offer help, but Dimmesdale refuses. He walks on slowly until he reaches the scaffold, where Hester is standing with Pearl by her side. Dimmesdale stops, turns toward them, and reaches out his hands. Hester approaches slowly, but pauses just before she reaches him. At that moment, Chillingworth pushes through the crowd to Dimmesdale and tries to stop him. "'Ha, tempter! Methinks thou art too late!' answered the minister, encountering his eye, fearfully, but firmly. 'Thy power is not what it was! With God's help, I shall escape thee now!'" Chapter 23, pg. 230.

The minister turns again to Hester, saying this must be the best way to resolve the whole tragedy. He says he is dying and wants to confess his sin. He stands up on the scaffold, onto which Hester and Pearl help him climb, and confesses to his congregants. At the end, he opens his shirt to reveal his chest. Chillingworth, who is looking on in horror, reacts: "'Thou hast escaped me!' he repeated more than once....'May God forgive thee!' said the minister. 'Thou, too, hast deeply sinned!'" Chapter 23, pp. 232-233. Dimmesdale then turns to Pearl and asks her to kiss him.

"Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a party, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled." Chapter 23, pg. 233.

Topic Tracking: Truth 10

Dimmesdale then says farewell to Hester, and she bends over him, wanting to know if they will meet again. "Hush, Hester, hush!...The law was broke! - the sin here so awfully revealed! - let these alone be in thy thoughts! I fear! I fear! It may be that, when we forgot our God, - when we violated our reverence each for the other's soul, - it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion." Chapter 23, pg. 233. Dimmesdale then dies.

Topic Tracking: Law 11

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