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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 18: A Flood Of Sunshine


Amazed at Hester's devotion and willingness to go with him, Dimmesdale reconsiders her suggestion to leave Boston. It will not be an easy thing for him to do, for he is a Puritan minister closely tied to the city where he has always preached. If he leaves Boston, he will be leaving behind everything that he knows and a congregation that is very supportive of him. A move will be much easier for Hester, for she has no real ties to the city. She was born in England, not a Puritan, and transported to Boston, where she has been forced to live outside the Puritan society. Hester is also more flexible and stronger than Dimmesdale.

Like Hester, Dimmesdale longs for a life with her, for his love has never died. Once he decides to leave Boston with her, he is transformed physically and emotionally. Thrilled at the prospect of a new life, Hester removes the scarlet letter, throws it away, and immediately feels a sense of freedom. She also discards her cap and allows her hair to fall around her shoulders, returning her beauty and youthfulness. As if to reflect their joy, the sunshine breaks through and lights up the forest.

Hester then tells Dimmesdale that he should get to know their daughter and informs him that she is a strange child. Dimmesdale doubts whether Pearl can accept and love him. Hester, however, is confident that Pearl will adjust. She calls out to the child, who is busily entertaining herself nearby and comes reluctantly when summoned. In fact, Pearl seems more at home out in the wild than she does in the confines of her home.


Out in the forest, away from judgmental society, Hester and Dimmesdale can finally relax and rediscover their true feelings for one another. The naturalness of their relationship is reinforced by the natural surroundings. As they agree to leave Boston together and establish a new life, they are both overcome with a feeling of joy; appropriately, the sunshine symbolically breaks through the clouds and disperses the dark gloominess of the forest.

Hester's emotional transformation is reinforced by her discarding the scarlet letter and letting down her hair. It also points out how stifled she has been in the past. Dimmesdale, too, realizes the burden of the past when he discovers a new avenue suggested by Hester. For the first time in seven years, he feels exhilarated.

It is important to notice how calmly and naturally Pearl behaves in the forest; it is as if nature accepts her as she is, clearly indicating that she is a child born out of a natural union. Hester's eagerness to bring Dimmesdale and Pearl together in their rightful bond and Dimmesdale's doubts regarding Pearl's acceptance foreshadow a new conflict that is to arise. Already, Pearl slows down when she finds Dimmesdale next to her mother.

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