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The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Chapter 19 | The Child at the Brookside

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 19 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 19 : The Child at the Brookside | Summary



Pearl is standing across the brook, looking at her parents. Hester cautions Dimmesdale to stay calm. Dimmesdale puts his hand over his heart. Pearl points at Hester's chest, as Hester is not wearing the scarlet letter. At Hester's command to cross the brook to come to them, Pearl throws a temper tantrum. Hester pins the letter back on her chest and covers her hair with her hat. Pearl hugs Hester and kisses the A. Dimmesdale kisses Pearl on her forehead, but she washes his kiss away. They depart, leaving the dell where the reunited lovers had met "in solitude," the trees whispering what they had seen, while "the melancholy brook" added this scene to the "mystery with which its little heart was already overburdened."


Pearl's tantrum over Hester's removal of the letter suggests a sense of personal rejection. The girl feels intuitively that she is connected to the scarlet A. In disposing of it, Hester is, in a sense, disposing of her. Only when Hester puts the letter back on does Pearl call her "my mother indeed."

The hopeful tone of the previous chapter is undercut by the interplay of Pearl and Dimmesdale. In rejecting his kiss, Pearl signals that reconciliation has not yet been achieved. When Hester bids her to come to see the minster, saying that he loves them, Pearl pointedly asks, "Will he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, into the town?" Pearl also possesses a sort of intuitive wisdom about human affairs and the human heart. She senses that Dimmesdale is not quite ready to accept public truth.

The disturbing episode of the washed-off kiss turns what had been happiness more somber, while the scene the narrator paints at the chapter's end foreshadows evil for Hester and Dimmesdale.

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