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What causes Hester to decide to speak to Chillingworth after so many years?  What does...

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angeleyes69301 | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted November 16, 2011 at 5:09 AM via web

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What causes Hester to decide to speak to Chillingworth after so many years?  What does she hope to accomplish?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 16, 2011 at 5:55 AM (Answer #1)

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In chapter XIII of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter we encounter Hester Prynne, after many years, finally facing up to the fact that she might be the key to changing Chillingworth's heart so that he would stop punishing Dimmesdale.

In fine, Hester Prynne resolved to meet her former husband, and do what might be in her power for the rescue of the victim on whom he had so evidently set his gripe.

As always, Hester shows up with Pearl in complete determination of ending this for once and for all. Although Hester is strong and determined, she still fears Chillingworth because a part of her still harbors some form of shame. She also knows that her affair with Dimmesdale is, ultimately, what turns Chillingworth into the closest thing to a lurking demon inDimmesdale's life. In all, Hester does carry a weight of guilt and penance that keeps her from using all her might to confront Chillingtworth. This is why her last resort is to go directly to him, face the situation, and use her best strategies to beg some mercy for the minister.

The full conversation happens in chapter XIV. Chillingworth is able to speak all his anger against Hester, and Hester humbly admits her mistakes while also accentuating Chillingworth's extreme anxiety for revenge. The conversation does not solve anything: Chillingworth is on a mission to finish Dimmesdale, Hester cannot control anything, and (what is worse) she knows she is also on Chillingworth's plans to make her life miserable.

(Chillingworth) “I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so?”

“It was myself!” cried Hester, shuddering. “It was I, not less than he. Why hast thou not avenged thyself on me?”

“I have left thee to the scarlet letter,” replied Roger Chillingworth. “If that have not avenged me, I can do no more!”

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