The Scarlet Letter Chapters 19-21 Summary

     Hester and Mr. Dimmesdale are now talking about Pearl, as they imagine their life together somewhere in Europe. Hester is sure that Pearl will love Mr. Dimmesdale once she gets to know him better, but he is not so sure about it, claiming that children dread from him for some reason. To prove him wrong, Hester summons Pearl, but the girl stands by the brook looking at them fiercely. Hester recognizes Pearl's caprice and tries to bring her to senses, unsuccessfully though. Pearl behaves devilishly until Hester realizes that she has to put back her scarlet letter on and hide her hair under the cap. Once she does that, Pearl approaches them. To show his affection, the clergyman kisses Pearl on her forehead, but she immediately runs to the brook to wash the kiss off.

     Soon, their secret meeting is over and they go separate ways. While walking away from Hester and Pearl, Mr. Dimmesdale feels as if the whole thing was just a dream, but quickly recalls their conversation in which they agreed to go back to Europe secretly and become free again. Hester will arrange the ship that will carry them to freedom, and it will probably set off in four days, in the perfect moment, as the clergyman will have enough time to finish the commenced job. Thoughts of freedom are wind at his back, so he returns to the town easily, feeling no pain or discomfort. However, he suddenly feels hunted by ungodly thoughts he can barely cope with. Whoever he meets along the way, an urge to say or do something unmorally and offensive appears. In order to avoid the excess, Mr. Dimmesdale tries to ignore people around him, although rudeness is as foul as the unspoken words. Just when he starts believing that he is being possessed by the devil, Mistress Hibbins, the reputed witch, passes by, beginning a conversation about his visit to the woods, asking him to inform her the next time he goes there, so that she can join him. The clergyman is startled both by her boldness and awareness of his actions, wondering if this is the proof that the devil is inside him. As if things are not weird enough, when he finally arrives home, his first visitor is Roger Chillingworth. He is allegedly worried about the clergyman's health. Mr. Dimmesdale decides to play along and acts as if he does not know that Roger is trying to do him harm. He assures Roger that he is feeling much better and does not have to take medications anymore. Physician pretends to be glad, replying ironically that good man's prayers are golden recompense for his work. When left alone, Mr. Dimmesdale starts writing a speech for Election Sermon inspired as never before.

     The following day residents of Boston are celebrating the election of new Governor. This public holiday has gathered all residents at the market place, Hester and Pearl among them too. Although Hester looks the same, everything inside her is different. This is the last time to show her scarlet letter to the public- tomorrow she will be free, with the man she loves. On the other hand, Pearl is unable to hide her emotions. Full of joy and energy, she mirrors Hester's feelings. Curious to find out what the congregation is about, Pearl asks her mother why no one is working in fields. Hester explains that procession is about to pass by and that all officials will be there, including the clergyman, whom she should not address, nor wave, as he will not be able to reply. Pearl finds it confusing, concluding that the clergyman must be a sad person, since he wants to be around them only in the dark woods or in the middle of the night, but refuses to be their company during the day. Hester rebukes her for thinking that way, as she cannot understand those things.

     Then the society as a whole comes into focus. The congregation is a faithful representation of the Puritan society. Although they would be allowed in England to celebrate by organizing parades and fireworks with abundance of every kind, here, as English immigrants, they are allowed only to observe the procession. The suppression is visible and will be even more present with the future generations. However, the variety of residents gathered in the market place cannot be denied. There are Indians as well as sailors from other countries. Roger Chillingworth is with one of those sailors, chatting privately and friendly. Soon after their conversation, that sailor approaches Hester, informing her, with a sting of sarcasm in his voice, that now he has to prepare another bed for an unplanned passenger, a very good friend of Mr. Dimmesdale- Roger Chillingworth. Hester is no longer in high spirits and feels eerie when spots Roger Chillingworth looking at her with a fearful smile on his lips.

Related Links:

The Scarlet Letter Chapters 19-21 Quiz
The Scarlet Letter Chapters 22-24 Summary
The Scarlet Letter Chapters 1-3 Summary
The Scarlet Letter Summary
The Scarlet Letter Quotes
The Scarlet Letter Important Characters
The custom-house introductory to 'The scarlet letter' Summary
The Scarlet Letter Quiz
Literature Summaries
Nathaniel Hawthorne Facts

To link to this The Scarlet Letter Chapters 19-21 Summary page, copy the following code to your site: