The Scarlet Letter
Comprehensive Summary and Review of Chapters 9-12
These chapters introduce us to Roger Chillingworth, the "elderly"
doctor, and Arthur Dimmesdale, the young Reverend. Chillingworth has been
accepted by the community and they are appreciative for having a doctor
in their midst. His reputation is further increased when Reverend Dimmesdale
offers him lodgings in his home. The two men engage in many deep intellectual
conversations and Chillingworth begins to suspect the Reverend as being
Pearl's father. This results after Dimmesdale complains of suffering a sickness
of the soul. No matter how much guilt Dimmesdale feels, his sermons are
unaffected by this and they become even more inspiring.
One night, while Dimmesdale is asleep, Chillingworth is determined
to find out the truth about the Reverend. He pushes aside the shirt that
Dimmesdale is wearing and on the chest of the Reverend, Chillingworth finds
his evidence. (The reader is not clued in as to what it is that he sees).
On another night, when Dimmesdale finds it impossible to sleep,
he tries to think of some remedy to ease his pain. He decides to mount the
scaffold where years before Hester suffered her shame. While he is standing
there, he screams out of pain but at the same time he also worries that
everyone in the town will wake up and come to look at him. The narrator
tells us, however, that townspeople took it for a witch's voice.
As he is standing up on the scaffold, he starts to find the
things that occur at groundlevel rather humorous. He almost laughs when
he sees Wilson, the older minister, who is coming from the deathbed of Governor
Winthrop, pass the scaffold without noticing Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale starts
to laugh thinking about what would happen if the town woke up the next morning
to find their holy minister on the place of public shame. This laugh is
answered by a laugh from Pearl, whom he hadn't noticed coming. (Hester and
Pearl, too, were at Winthrop's deathbed.) He asks them to get on the scaffold
with him. When they are all standing there, the three of them hold hands.
In the dark, none of them see another figure entering the
square. Roger Chillingworth is watching them and observing their every movement.
Suddenly the sky appears to light up and a huge letter A seems to be illuminated.
Dimmesdale is very upset at the possibility of being exposed and asks Hester
if she knows anything about Chillingworth's background. Hester, having been
sworn to secrecy, does not reveal his identity.
It is interesting to note that the weaker and more guilt-ridden
Dimmesdale becomes, the holier he appears to his congregation, whose members
regard him as unequaled in piety. Every sermon he preaches seems to be more
inspired than the last. More than once the minister resolved to confess
his hypocrisy and take his place beside Hester, but he is too afraid of
the shame open confession would bring.