The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Chapter 10 | The Leech and His Patient

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 10 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 10 : The Leech and His Patient | Summary



Chillingworth probes deeper and deeper into Dimmesdale's mind and heart, asking the minister to reveal all his secrets to relieve his soul. Dimmesdale refuses. Looking through the window, they both see Hester and Pearl as they walk in the nearby graveyard. Pearl places burrs on her mother's scarlet letter and, when she notices they are being watched, throws one at Dimmesdale, who flinches away from the window. A few days later, Chillingworth comes upon Dimmesdale asleep in a chair and rips open the minister's shirt to look at his chest. Chillingworth gets "a wild look of wonder, joy, and horror" and with "ghastly rapture" dances around the room. In so doing, he looks like Satan himself the narrator says.


The graveyard symbolizes death and foreshadows the novel's conclusion. The burrs that Pearl places on the A represent the insults that Hester endures; the one she throws at Dimmesdale link the minister to Hester. Dimmesdale tries to evade the burr, symbolizing his refusal to own up to his sin.

Chillingworth is overjoyed at what he sees on Dimmesdale's chest. What the doctor sees is not identified, however, and so foreshadows the climax in Chapter 23. It is important to realize that Dimmesdale might have an A on his chest—or nothing at all—as Chillingworth is not a reliable source, given his fall into evil.

Finally the destructive effects of secrecy and hypocrisy—ignoring public truth—are reinforced by Chillingworth's persistent efforts to get Dimmesdale to reveal the truth, although Chillingworth hides his own identity.

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