The Scarlet Letter
Comprehensive Summary and Review of Chapters 21-24
The celebration of the Puritan Holiday begins with a procession.
The people are gathered in the square to watch and to listen to Dimmesdale's
sermon. Hester, in the meantime, goes to talk to the captain and make arrangements
for the voyage. She is surprised to hear from him that there will be another
passenger on board, Roger Chillingworth.
She then goes to listen to Dimmesdale's sermon and sees Chillingworth
looking at her and smirking. The people are inspired and moved by the Reverend's
speech and seem to feel that it is the best sermon that they have ever heard.
On the way to the banquet, the evening festivities of the
celebration, Dimmesdale sees Hester and Pearl. He beckons to them to join
him and to everyone's surprise he mounts the scaffold with them. He tells
Hester that he cannot leave with her as he is dying and that he must cleanse
his soul and acknowledge his guilt. He then turns to the crowd and bears
his chest, revealing the sign of sin. He then falls down upon the scaffold.
The crowd is amazed and Chillingworth cries out, "Thou hast escaped
Dimmesdale's final words are to Pearl when he asks her if
she will kiss him now and to God, as he asks for forgiveness for Chillingworth.
He ends with the words, Praise be His name! His will be done! Farewell!
The conclusion of the novel tries to clarify what people saw
when the minister stood on the scaffold. It also tells that Hester and Pearl
remain in Boston until Chillingworth dies and then leave the colony.
After many yeas pass, Hester returns to Salem to spend her
final days in the place where her love is buried. She dons the Scarlet letter
unto her chest of her own free will, but never rejoins the Puritan Church.
Pearl, who by now is married and has a child of her own, stays constantly
in touch with her mother and remains the bright spot in Hester's life. When
Hester dies, she is buried near Dimmesdale's grave and shares one headstone.
It is marked with a scarlet letter "A".
Hawthorne, through his narrator, adds a final chapter, in
which he speculates on the fate of the other characters. He proposes the
following: Roger Chillingsworth, hatefully hunched over and shriveled, died
within the year; but in sympathy he left his considerable estate to Pearl.
Having come into such wealth, both Pearl and Hester sailed abroad. Hester
eventually returned to Boston alone to occupy her old cottage, frequently
receiving letters and gifts from her daughter. She became a trusted confidante
to scores of local women, but never removed the scarlet letter from her
breast. Her gravestone - it is suggested - can still be seen: a plain black
headstone with no name engraved; only a blazing scarlet "A".