The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Chapter 24 | Conclusion

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 24 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 24 : Conclusion | Summary

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Summary

The narrator gives several conflicting accounts of what Dimmesdale revealed. Some people believe the minister had a scarlet letter A on his chest that he inflicted on himself as self-torture. Others say that the mark was caused by some of Chillingworth's magical potions. Some think the sign was produced from within, caused by his guilt. Certain witnesses even swear that there was nothing in his chest at all and that Dimmesdale had not linked himself to Hester's sin. The narrator also includes a moral, calling for people to reveal the truth or some information that people can use to get at the truth.

Chillingworth dies within a year. He leaves Pearl a great fortune. As a result she becomes America's richest heiress. After Chillingworth's death, Hester and Pearl leave Boston. Hester comes back a few years later, puts the scarlet letter back on, and spends the rest of her life helping people. She is buried next to Dimmesdale under a single headstone that has the letter A on it.

Analysis

The novel's theme of personal and public truth is clearly stated in the form of a moral: "Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!" The narrator's words remind readers that The Scarlet Letter is not a story about sin and guilt. Rather, it is a story about the effect of sin and guilt on the people it affects and the importance of staying true to one's inner compass.

Hester is buried "near that old and sunken grave [Dimmesdale's], yet with a space between them, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle." The space between the two graves suggests that even in death, Hester and Dimmesdale cannot be united. Nonetheless, "one tombstone served for both," with an A and a motto on the grave. Since they share the A, Hester and Dimmesdale are linked in death—as they were not in life—by the symbol of their sin.

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