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CHAPTER 20: The Minister In A Maze
Dimmesdale leaves the forest ahead of Hester and Pearl and has to reassure himself that his meeting with them was not a dream. He also reflects on their plan to leave within the week on board a Spanish ship bound for Bristol. Hester will discreetly book their tickets, and on the day after the Election Day sermon, they will leave Boston for good.
On his way back home, Dimmesdale finds himself completely changed. He no longer walks feebly, and everything around him, especially his church, appears brighter. When he passes his parishioners, however, he is at a loss for words, for he finds that he wants to say wicked things to them. He is afraid that perhaps he has sold his soul to he devil. He then encounters Mistress Hibbins, the witch, who refers to his secret meeting in the forest, which Dimmesdale denies. She laughs at him knowingly and tells him she will meet him in the forest at midnight.
When Dimmesdale enters his apartment, everything there looks changed and unfamiliar. He realizes that the things and people around him have not changed; instead, the change is within himself. Just then, Chillingworth appears and inquires about his trip and his health. He suggests some medicine, which Dimmesdale turns down. When Chillingworth departs, he tears up his previously written Election Day sermon and stays up all night writing a new one.
After meeting with Hester and planning their departure from Boston, Dimmesdale is a changed man. He walks with greater strength and has a new resolve in life. He sends Chillingworth away, telling him he does not want his medicine. He also tears up his Election Day sermon and stays up all night writing another.
Ironically, Dimmesdale, a known sinner, is once again tortured by the
worldly, which he has long suppressed. On his way home, he is tempted
to curse, argue, and show lust, wicked impulses that he struggles to curb.
Until he meets Hester in the forest, he has been able to keep his natural
feelings and emotions in check; now he realizes that they have resurfaced
to torment him.