A few weeks later, Hester sees Chillingworth picking herbs in the woods. She tells him that she is going to reveal the fact that he is her husband to Dimmesdale. He tells her that Providence is now in charge of their fates, and she may do as she sees fit. Hester takes Pearl into the woods, where they wait for Dimmesdale to arrive. He is surprised to see them, but he confesses to Hester that he is desperate for a friend who knows his secret. She comforts him and tells him Chillingworth's true identity. He is furious but finally agrees that they should run away together. He returns to town with more energy than he has ever shown before.
America’s first psychological novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a dark tale of love, crime, and revenge set in colonial New England. It revolves around a single, forbidden act of passion that forever alters the lives of three members of a small Puritan community: Hester Prynne, an ardent and fierce woman who bears the punishment of her sin in humble silence; the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a respected public figure who is inwardly tormented by long-hidden guilt; and the malevolent Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband—a man who seethes with an Ahab-like lust for vengeance. The landscape of this classic novel is uniquely American, but the themes it explores are universal—the nature of sin, guilt, and penitence, the clash between our private and public selves, and the spiritual and psychological cost of living outside society. Constructed with the elegance of a Greek tragedy, The Scarlet Letter brilliantly illuminates the truth that lies deep within the human heart. Nancy Stade is trained as a lawyer and has worked in the federal government and the private sector. She currently lives in Mexico, where she is working on a novel.
This passage, which appears in the novel’s final chapter, concludes the book’s examination of the theme of individual identity in the face of social judgments. After many years’ absence, Hester has just returned to her former home. She resumes wearing the scarlet letter because her past is an important part of her identity; it is not something that should be erased or denied because someone else has decided it is shameful. What Hester undergoes is more akin to reconciliation than penitence. She creates a life in which the scarlet letter is a symbol of adversity overcome and of knowledge gained rather than a sign of failure or condemnation. She assumes control of her own identity, and in so doing she becomes an example for others. She is not, however, the example of sin that she was once intended to be. Rather, she is an example of redemption and self-empowerment.