Chapter 17 Scarlet Letter Analysis
Mira Susa, Jennifer Welsh Mr. Jordan AP Language and Composition 19 November 2009 “Chapter 17” Chapter 17, “The Pastor and His Parishioner,” of The Scarlet Letter, starts off with Dimmesdale returning from his journey through the dark forest, upon which Hester waits faithfully for him out of the public eye, and more importantly, Chillingworth. The scene is gloomy; it is noon, however, the sun is shaded by a clouded sky and the thick foliage of the forest, transforming it into a gray twilight.
The moment passes when they encounter face to face after seven years of the punishment Hester has been given. They act coldly until Dimmesdale, with fear and reluctant necessity, grabbed Hester’s hand, which broke the dreary part of the encounter. Afterwards, they sit near a brook on a heap of moss and engage in casual conversation, until they start talking about inner peace, or more specifically, whether they have any inner peace. Dimmesdale has not found any from his hypocrisy and sin. He says he cannot console others about their sins when he is sinful.
Hester says he does many good works and his sin should be left behind. Dimmesdale on the other hand wishes that he has someone, a friend, he could console in and tell his sins – this would keep his soul alive. Hester claims she could be that partner, but also warns he has an enemy close to him, even under the same roof. Dimmesdale is shocked. Hester realizes what deep injury she has caused to Dimmesdale, a sensitive soul, to a point where the alienation from virtue is causing him to go mad.
Roger Chillingworth is finally revealed to be a deception of goodness, and Dimmesdale sinks to the ground and buries his face in his hands in struggle. Because of the betrayal he feels, he says he will never be able to forgive Hester. Hester rebukes this by saying that he needs to forgive her because it is God who will punish. Then, “in sudden and desperate tenderness,” she took hold of Dimmesdale and placed him against her bosom, on the scarlet letter. She can’t bear to see Dimmesdale frown.
After he rests on her bosom, Dimmesdale eventually forgives Hester for the reason that Chillingworth is more sinful than both Hester and him. She says that what they did had a “consecration,” revealing that it was governed and fulfilled most likely by God. Life is tough for them, but they manage to love each other. Dimmesdale, once again, cannot think for himself, and asks for advice on what to do with his current situation. Hester says for him to leave the town and return to Europe once again. Dimmesdale says he is powerless and cannot go because he can’t quit his post.
Hester says he may renew his life, for life is full of trials, and that there is more good works to be done. Switch names, move on. He cries out he must die, for he can’t venture into the world alone. Then, in a deep whisper, Hester says he will not go alone. Analysis Hawthorne uses several rhetorical devices to reach his purpose – to directly relate Puritan settings and romantic beliefs through Hester and Dimmesdale’s love and forgiveness of one another. Hawthorne uses imagery and diction, metaphors and similes, foreshadowing, irony and allusion to get his point of view across.
The settings of the forest are dark and gloomy even though it is only noon, which represents Puritanism, but Dimmesdale and Hester see each other in a different light, like former lovers of a different world, which represents romantic beliefs. Hawthorne uses phrases like “shadow of the woods” to further explain the setting; however, a gleam of romanticism shines when they sit on a heap of moss. He uses powerful images, such as Dimmesdale gasping for breath, clutching at his heart, to express deep emotion. Dimmesdale is described as having a “magnetic sphere” of sensitivity, and also a “…blacker or a fiercer frown. Hester has firm, sad eyes, and Dimmesdale is a pale, weak, sinful, and sorrow-stricken man. They sit hand in hand on the mossy trunk of a fallen tree, which represents the new growth from a hard past. As for metaphors and similes, Hawthorne uses them to express emotions. He expresses the first meeting of Hester and Dimmesdale as two ghosts, and Dimmesdale puts his hand towards Hester’s “as chill as death. ” Dimmesdale describes the emotion of standing in the pulpit, being watched by many eyes towards his face, “as if the light of heaven were beaming from it! He clutched his heart “as if he would have torn it out of his bosom. ” Chillingworth is put into a metaphor describing him as a poison. Chillingworth’s revenge is described as “…has been blacker than my sin. ” Hester describing “yellow leaves will show no vestige of the white man’s tread” indicates a metaphor for change, and how he can leave his past behind. Hawthorne uses examples of foreshadowing such as, “the gloomy sky, the threatening storm, and, next, the health of each” for rhetorically effective writing.
An example that includes foreshadowing, along with imagery and metaphor, reads, “… while one solemn old tree groaned dolefully to another, as if telling the sad story of the pair that sat beneath, or constrained to forebode evil to come. ” It describes Hester and Dimmesdale as trees groaning against another, yet describing there might he evil to come. Dimmesdale crying, “I must die here! ” is another example of foreshadowing directly related to death. Irony is shown through examples such as, “That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin.
He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. ” He, in cold blood (intentionally and emotionless), has done a wrong to Dimmesdale, but also literally, in the physical sense, has in blood done wrong to Dimmesdale. It is also ironic when Hester is giving advice to Dimmesdale that he should leave and move onward towards a different world, when she herself has not done so and does not know the extent of what is to happen. Lastly, Hawthorne uses a Biblical illusion, related to the Puritans, for a romantic subject, leaving the native land.
When Hester says, “Then there is the broad pathway of the sea! ” it is alluding to Moses’ parting of the Red Sea. Graphic The symbol of Hester and Dimmesdale close together, up at the top of the page, is outlined in light blue to express idealistic desires because they are spirits in white in Heaven. The forest trees are black from the judgmental settings of the Puritans, but the tree leaves are red to express Hester and Dimmesdale’s passion, blood and love. The road is paved smooth but spotted and messy because of Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s past road, but is depicted orange for their future ambitions.
The two hands is an allusion to Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, and is surrounded by black for the evaluation and law of sin that Adam has created in the beginning of time. The orb is a representation of the world, in which Hawthorne does not call a world but a “sphere,” which suggests that Dimmesdale and Hester have left there earth-bound world to something spiritual. They have a magical connection, depicted in purple; however, it is rung around in white to represent the holiness, peace, spirituality, and hope of their love. The fallen brown log, stated in the chapter, is represented as tradition.
The moss is a representation of their fallen or seemed to be fallen, past and wrecked future, but the green moss suggests a new beginning. Quotes “It was no wonder that they thus questioned one another’s actual and bodily existence, and even doubted of their own. So strangely did they meet, in the dim wood, that it was like the first encounter, in the world beyond the grave, of two spirits who had been intimately connected in their former life, but now stood coldly shuddering, in mutual dread; as not yet familiar with their state, nor wonted to the companionship of disembodied beings.
Each a ghost, and awe-stricken at the other ghost! ” This quote initially explains the Puritan settings, “dim wood, coldly shuddering” to a romantic belief, “intimately connected, companionship. ” This quote binds the chapter to the theme of the book – Hawthorne’s speculation of Puritanism and Romanticism developed within the story. “They sat down again, side by side, and hand clasped in hand, on the mossy trunk of the fallen tree.
Life had never brought them a gloomier hour; it was the point whither their pathway had so long been tending, and darkening ever, as it stole along; and yet it enclosed a charm that made them linger upon it, and claim another, and another, and, after all, another moment. ” This quote explains the entire chapter of romantic belief by describing the love between Hester and Dimmesdale’s love. It explains how they are in the worst time of their relationship, with a long and horrific past, but their mutual desire for each other keeps them with one another, asking for more. Leave this wreck and ruin here where it hath happened. Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Hast thou exhausted possibility in the failure of this one trial? Not so! The future is yet full of trial and success. ” This quote, spoken by Hester, explains the hope of beginning anew, a romantic belief. However, it is spiritual in the religious sense by saying that as one’s life moves on, it can become less sinless – there are many trials, leading to successes. Also, it explains how God wants people to love life, to do more good, and to enjoy happiness.