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Chapter 11 Scarlet Letter Analysis Essays

Summary

Chillingworth plots a "more intimate revenge" and so goes everywhere with Dimmesdale to probe deeply into the minister's soul. Meanwhile, Dimmesdale is sickened by how his parishioners admire him. He has tried several times to reveal the truth but has not been able to confess his crime, and his protestations that he is "the worst of sinners, an abomination" only make them revere him more. The minister whips himself, goes without food, and stays up late into the night as punishment for his sin. During many of these long nights, Dimmesdale sees Hester and Pearl in his mind and imagines that Pearl points at Hester's scarlet letter and then at Dimmesdale's chest. Late one night Dimmesdale goes outside.

Analysis

The more Dimmesdale tries to confess his guilt, the more holy his followers believe he is. This is another instance of dramatic irony in the work. Hawthorne creates sympathy for the minister, but he clearly shows that Dimmesdale's guilt is his own fault, as he refused from the very start to take responsibility for his role in the affair and for fathering Pearl.

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 11 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 11

The Interior of a Heart

  • Chillingworth is ticked off. He starts plotting his revenge, but, if you ask us, he really shouldn't bother: Dimmesdale is torturing himself enough for the both of them.
  • Dimmesdale can tell something is wrong with the guy, but he figures that his intuition isn't trustworthy because he himself is such a big sinner.
  • His entire congregation venerates him, but he just cannot deal. Even when he tells them how vile he is, they don't believe him.
  • More than once, he's gone up to the pulpit resolved to confess, but he keeps chickening out. Basically, he sickens himself.
  • Instead of confessing, Dimmesdale commits acts of penance like beating himself mercilessly all night in a secret room. It's a lot less fun than it sounds.
  • But no matter how hard he beats himself, he can't purify the sin.
  • Night after night, he has visions of Hester Prynne, pointing her forefinger at the letter on the bodice of her dress and then at his breast.
  • Okay, apparently we know who the father of her baby is now.
  • And then he has an idea. He gets up from his chair and leaves the house, going out into the night.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 11

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