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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 22: The Procession

Summary

The Election Day procession starts with the military band, followed by the local troops; next come the eminent civilians, followed by Dimmesdale. As the minister walks past Hester and Pearl, he does not even glance at them, an action that hurts Hester. She, however, cannot keep her eyes off of him. She immediately notices that he has significantly changed in appearance. He no longer appears emaciated or weak and walks with a healthy gait. She also notices that he does not hold his hand over his heart.

Pearl, like her mother, notices the changes in Dimmesdale and wonders if it is the same person whom they had met in the forest. She also notices that he does not look their way. Pearl feels unhappy and wonders how he would react if she were to go up to him and ask for a kiss.

Mistress Hibbins joins Hester and informs her that she knows of the secret meeting with Dimmesdale in the forest; she also implies that the outwardly pious minister is guilty of the same sin as Hester. Finally she predicts that the minister's mask, obviously implanted by the devil, will be removed, and the truth about him will soon be revealed to the world. Pearl will then know why he has held his hand over his heart.

The service begins in the meeting house. The sound of Dimmesdale delivering the sermon is heard by Hester, who chooses to remain outside at the scaffold. The Puritans, the Indians, and the sailors pass by her and look at the scarlet letter, each with a different emotion. In the crowd, Hester sees some of the people who had been there when she was first made to stand on the scaffold.


Pearl moves among the crowd, keeping herself busy and spreading her joy. The Puritans consider her to be a demon child and are not pleased with her excitement. The Indians recognize a wildness in her, and the sailors admire the child's spirit. Pearl is given a message from the captain of the ship for her mother. She is to inform her that Chillingworth will lead Dimmesdale to the ship, and that Hester and Pearl should take off themselves without waiting for Dimmesdale.

When Hester hears the message, she feels depressed and senses that her plan to escape with Dimmesdale will fail.

Notes

This chapter centers on the events of the Election Day holiday. There is a detailed description of the procession and the place of honor bestowed upon Dimmesdale. It is ironic that Pearl's father is so honored while her mother is considered an outcast sinner. As she stands by the scaffold remembering the day that she had to stand on it, the Puritans, Indians, and sailors pass by her and stare questioningly at the scarlet letter. At the same time, the people in Dimmesdale's church stare at him adoringly as he delivers his Election Day sermon. As long as Dimmesdale continues to act pure and holy, there will always be a gulf between him and Hester in this Puritan community.

Hester is unnerved when she is joined by Mistress Hibbins, the witch who is always to be avoided. She tells Hester that she knows of the meeting in the forest and predicts that Dimmesdale's mark is soon to be revealed to the world. She laughs eerily and then departs. Then Hester learns of Chillingworth's evil intention of accompanying them to Bristol and escorting Dimmesdale to the ship. She realizes that her husband is "in charge" and feels panicky about it. She has a premonition that the plan to escape Boston with Dimmesdale will never come to pass, a thought that fills her with sadness.

By presenting Hester standing near the scaffold amongst the same crowd that had stood there seven years ago to witness her ignominy, Hawthorne recreates a familiar scene and prepares the reader for the final dramatic scaffold scene.

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