The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One night, Dimmesdale mounts the town scaffold where Hester and Pearl once stood to be shamed. He imagines the scene filled with townspeople. He cries out in anguish, but Mr. Wilson, who was walking by in the distance, doesn't see Dimmesdale.
It's clear now that Dimmesdale shares Hester's "sin." But he can only bring himself to experience privately what Hester endured publicly.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Hester and Pearl, returning from the deathbed of the colony's first governor, do spot Dimmesdale, and join him on the scaffold. Her eyes alive with "witchcraft," Pearl asks Dimmesdale to appear on the scaffold with them in front of everyone. Dimmesdale says he will only do that on "judgment day."
Dimmesdale hides behind religion ("judgment day") to evade Pearl's invitation to escape from his secrets. "Witchcraft" offers salvation while religion offers sin.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
A meteor lights up the sky in what Dimmesdale thinks is the shape of an "A." Pearl notices Chillingworth watching them. Chillingworth, looking like an "arch-fiend," urges Dimmesdale to get down from the scaffold. He and Dimmesdale return home.
Nature celebrates the scarlet letter. Yet Dimmesdale's goes with the "arch-fiend," He's chosen secret sin over punishment, repentance, and internal truth.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
The next day Dimmesdale delivers his most powerful sermon ever. Afterward, the church sexton returns to Dimmesdale a black glove he found on the scaffold, saying Satan must have left it there. He mentions that other townspeople reported seeing a letter "A" formed by a meteor, which they took to stand for "angel" and to mean the dead governor has ascended to heaven.
More hypocrisy: Dimmesdale's sermons against sin get more powerful as his own sins increase, and the Puritans continue to be blind to the sinning in their midst. Note how the letter "A" means only what popular opinion says it means.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
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