Sparknotes.Com Scarlets Letter Summery Chapters 23 24

671 words - 3 pages

Dimmesdale finishes his Election Day sermon, which focuses on the relationship between God and the communities of mankind, “with a special reference to the New England which they [are] here planting in the wilderness.” Dimmesdale has proclaimed that the people of New England will be chosen by God, and the crowd is understandably moved by the sermon. As they file out of the meeting hall, the people murmur to each other that the sermon was the minister’s best, most inspired, and most truthful ever. As they move toward the town hall for the evening feast, Dimmesdale sees Hester and hesitates. Turning toward the scaffold, he calls to Hester and Pearl to join him. Deaf to Chillingworth’s attempt to stop him, Dimmesdale mounts the scaffold with Hester and Pearl. He declares that God has led him there. The crowd stares. Dimmesdale leans on Hester for support and begins his confession, calling himself “the one sinner of the world.” After ...view middle of the document...

The minister bids her farewell and dies.
Summary—Chapter 24: Conclusion

[T]he scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

The book’s narrator discusses the events that followed Dimmesdale’s death and reports on the fates of the other major characters. Apparently, those who witnessed the minister’s death cannot agree upon what exactly it was that they saw. Most say they saw on his chest a scarlet letter exactly like Hester’s. To their minds, it resulted from Chillingworth’s poisonous magic, from the minister’s self-torture, or from his inner remorse. Others say they saw nothing on his chest and that Dimmesdale’s “revelation” was simply that any man, however holy or powerful, can be as guilty of sin as Hester. It is the narrator’s opinion that this latter group is composed of Dimmesdale’s friends, who are anxious to protect his reputation.

Left with no object for his malice, Chillingworth wastes away and dies within a year of the minister’s passing, leaving a sizable inheritance to Pearl. Then, shortly after Chillingworth’s death, Hester and Pearl disappear. In their absence, the story of the scarlet letter grows into a legend. The story proves so compelling that the town preserves the scaffold and Hester’s cottage as material testaments to it. Many years later, Hester suddenly returns alone to live in the cottage and resumes her charity work. By the time of her death, the “A,” which she still wears, has lost any stigma it may have had. Hester is buried in the King’s Chapel graveyard, which is the burial ground for Puritan patriarchs. Her grave is next to Dimmesdale’s, but far enough away to suggest that “the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle, even in death.” They do, however, share a headstone. It bears a symbol that the narrator feels appropriately sums up the whole of the narrative: a scarlet letter “A” on a black background.

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