Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 14

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 14

Hester and the Physician
  • Hester sends Pearl to the water to play so that Hester can talk to Chillingworth.
  • Uh, maybe you shouldn't let a 7-year-old play in the water by herself?
  • Well, Hester does have a lot on her mind.
  • The doctor lets Hester know that the magistrates have been considering letting Hester take off the red letter.
  • Thanks, but no thanks, says Hester. If she were worthy, it would fall away by itself or be transformed into something else. The magistrates don't have the right to order it removed.
  • Although apparently they had the right to order it on…
  • Then wear it, Chillingworth replies. It's fancy and suits her.
  • Hester is shocked by how Chillingworth has changed from a scholarly man to a desperate, greedy creature.
  • There's evil in his heart—but she blames herself, since her sin drove him to it.
  • She finally speaks to him about Dimmesdale and says she shouldn't have remained silent.
  • It would have been better if Dimmesdale had died or been publicly shamed than to have Chillingworth stalking him for seven years.

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  • Chillingworth does a little evil-villain chuckling about how Dimmesdale knew that he was being persecuted, but he never guessed that Chillingworth was doing it.
  • At least he has the self-awareness to be slightly horrified by how evil he is.
  • Hester begs from him to let up, but Chillingworth says that Dimmesdale has actually made things worse by forcing Chillingworth to become a vindictive monster.
  • Way to blame the victim, Chillingworth.
  • Hester points out that it's actually her fault, so why doesn't he pick on her instead?
  • In fact, she's had about enough of this: she's going to reveal the secret, since her silence has wrecked Dimmesdale's life.
  • For some reason, this makes Chillingworth break out into admiration and wish that she'd met someone who deserved her.
  • When she leaves, she asks him one more time to forgive Dimmesdale.
  • No can do. He has no power to forgive. This is his fate, just as it was her fate to commit adultery.

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