The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Chapter 11 | The Interior of a Heart

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 11 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 11 : The Interior of a Heart | Summary

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Summary

Chillingworth plots a "more intimate revenge" and so goes everywhere with Dimmesdale to probe deeply into the minister's soul. Meanwhile, Dimmesdale is sickened by how his parishioners admire him. He has tried several times to reveal the truth but has not been able to confess his crime, and his protestations that he is "the worst of sinners, an abomination" only make them revere him more. The minister whips himself, goes without food, and stays up late into the night as punishment for his sin. During many of these long nights, Dimmesdale sees Hester and Pearl in his mind and imagines that Pearl points at Hester's scarlet letter and then at Dimmesdale's chest. Late one night Dimmesdale goes outside.

Analysis

The more Dimmesdale tries to confess his guilt, the more holy his followers believe he is. This is another instance of dramatic irony in the work. Hawthorne creates sympathy for the minister, but he clearly shows that Dimmesdale's guilt is his own fault, as he refused from the very start to take responsibility for his role in the affair and for fathering Pearl.

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