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CHAPTER 24: Conclusion
Dimmesdale's exposure of his breast is interpreted differently by the people. Some believed that there was really a scarlet letter there, a mark of his sinfulness. Some said the devil put it there; others believed that Dimmesdale had carved it there himself as self-inflicted punishment; others felt that Chillingworth had caused it. Others, especially those representative of the Church and the State, believed that there was no such sign on his heart and that he had no personal sin; they interpreted Dimmesdale's ascending the scaffold with Hester and Pearl as a symbolic lesson in the sinfulness of all men. In God's view, everyone is a sinner in need of mercy.
Hester and Pearl remain in Boston until Chillingworth's death, which occurred within a year. Driven by his revenge, after Dimmesdale's death, he no longer had a reason for existing. Pearl inherits a large sum of money and property from him, his only noble act in the book.
Later, mother and daughter disappear, and the people often hear rumors about their whereabouts. Hawthorne indicates that have gone to Europe. Then one day Hester returns to her old cottage without Pearl. Once again, different stories are circulated. Hawthorne discloses, however, that Pearl has married well, has a child of her own, and is constantly in touch with her mother. She, therefore, becomes the only bright spot in a gloomy novel.
Hester returns to Boston to end her days in the place of her love, sin, suffering, and penitence. No one expects her to wear the scarlet letter, but she places it on her chest and constantly wears it of her own free will. She is comfortable with her suffering, and the people of Boston come to her for advice about problems. She never becomes a Puritan and hopes for a new time when unreasonable morality and sternness will be replaced with rationality and happiness. When she dies, she is placed near Dimmesdale's grave with one tombstone marking both their graves. It is marked with a scarlet letter "A".
This expository chapter is intended to bring the novel to a logical conclusion. However, with his use of ambiguities, Hawthorne merely gives suppositions and leaves the reader to decide what to believe. The sense of suspense that pervaded the novel continues even after the conclusion, for several questions are not fully answered.
At the end of the novel, like its opening, the focus of attention is
Hester. She is seen returning to Boston and living a peaceful life. When
she dies, she is buried in the cemetery mentioned in the opening chapter.
In the conclusion, Hawthorne attempts to tie all the loose ends together
while still leaving a sense of mystery at the end of the novel.