Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 11

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 11

The Interior of a Heart

  • Chillingworth is ticked off. He starts plotting his revenge, but, if you ask us, he really shouldn't bother: Dimmesdale is torturing himself enough for the both of them.
  • Dimmesdale can tell something is wrong with the guy, but he figures that his intuition isn't trustworthy because he himself is such a big sinner.
  • His entire congregation venerates him, but he just cannot deal. Even when he tells them how vile he is, they don't believe him.
  • More than once, he's gone up to the pulpit resolved to confess, but he keeps chickening out. Basically, he sickens himself.
  • Instead of confessing, Dimmesdale commits acts of penance like beating himself mercilessly all night in a secret room. It's a lot less fun than it sounds.
  • But no matter how hard he beats himself, he can't purify the sin.
  • Night after night, he has visions of Hester Prynne, pointing her forefinger at the letter on the bodice of her dress and then at his breast.
  • Okay, apparently we know who the father of her baby is now.
  • And then he has an idea. He gets up from his chair and leaves the house, going out into the night.

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