Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 22

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 22

The Procession

  • Just then, Hester hears military music floating down the street.
  • The magistrates and citizens are arriving at the meetinghouse to hear the Reverend Dimmesdale's Election Sunday sermon.
  • First comes the music, then the men of "civil eminence" (22.3), and then the "young and eminently distinguished divine" (22.4).
  • Dimmesdale is looking pretty energetic, but he doesn't even bother glancing at Hester, who's pretty bummed out.
  • It's almost like he's a different person from the guy who kissed her in the forest—which is exactly what Pearl points out.
  • Someone else notices the change, too. It's Mistress Hibbins, the town witch, given a wide berth by everyone else in the town.
  • She stands next to Hester Prynne, and the whole town starts sweating in fear.
  • You never want your adulteress and your witch to start plotting together, after all.
  • Anyway, Mistress Hibbins tells Hester that she knows something's up. When the Black Man sees one of his servants fail to acknowledge his allegiance publicly by wearing a mark like Hester's scarlet A, he makes sure to shame that person by placing a mark on his body and revealing it to the world.
  • What?
  • Translated: Dimmesdale may not wear a scarlet letter on his clothes, but he's wearing one on his body.
  • As Hester listens to Dimmesdale's sermon, she feels worse than ever.
  • For some reason, Pearl gets to play in the marketplace, watched by a group of American Indians.
  • The shipmaster gets her attention by throwing her a gold chain, which she twists around her neck and waist.
  • Hm, a little foreshadowing, perhaps?
  • He gives her a message to take to Hester: Chillingworth is going to bring Dimmesdale on board with him, so she doesn't need to worry about him.
  • Oh, and also calls her "witch-baby," but Pearl doesn't go for that: Mistress Hibbins says her father is the "Prince of the Air."
  • Hester is seriously bummed out now, since apparently they're never going to escape Dimmesdale.
  • Also, there are a bunch of strangers in town, and they're all staring at her letter, since their mommas didn't teach them any manners.
  • The sailors and American Indians are also gawking.
  • With all these people staring at Hester's chest, the townspeople are feeling pretty interested, too.
  • And this is all going down while Dimmesdale is standing up on his pulpit.
  • Who, says the narrator, could have guess that the scarlet letter marked them both, the sinner and the (alleged) saint?

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