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In what way does Hawthorne move the story foward in chapters 9 through 15? How...

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goodcharlottesnl | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 20, 2009 at 3:32 AM via web

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In what way does Hawthorne move the story foward in chapters 9 through 15? How effective is his technique?

"The Scarlet Letter"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 19, 2009 at 1:26 PM (Answer #1)

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Hailed frequently as the greatest American novel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" has its emotional, psychological drama revolve around Hester Prynne. Chapters IX through XV move the plot by presenting the characters who are involved with Hester.

  • Chapter IX-The reader learns about the dangerous relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale.
  • Chapter X-Chillingworth becomes fiercely obsessed by his search into the heart of Dimmesdale.  His diabolical determination to learn the secret of the Reverend's heart makes Chillingworth as much as victim of his own scheme as Dimmesdale is.
  • Chapter XI-Chillingworth begins his torture of the heart of Dimmesdale after pulling open the shirt of the sleeping minister and learning his secret.  However, the physician becomes a "poor, forlorn creature" in his evil doings.
  • Chapter XII-Exactly the middle of the novel, the second of the "scaffold" scenes occurs.  Dimmesdale stands alone one night on the scaffold.  Here is Hawthorne's realism:  the sudden changes in mood in the tired mind of the minister, the self-condemnation, cowardice, the nearly insane scream, and his impulse to speak to Mr. Wilson are all presented.  In Gothic detail a spectacular strange light appears, "doubtless caused by one of those meteors,..."  The A appears in the sky.--There are many  symbols in this chapter.
  • Chapter XIII-A drastic change has occurred in Hester's physical appearance.  No longer fulfilling a woman's role, Hester has lost her passion and beauty.  She appears drab and severe.  Her once glorious hair is contained in a grey cap.  But, her emotional energy is directed toward the miserable Mr. Dimmesdale.
  • Chapter XIV-Hester confronts Chillingworth though shocked by his devilish appearance.  She tells her husband that she regrets not having divulged his identity.  Chillingworth tells her that fate has made them all what they are, but Hester protests that they are all guilty.  Chillingworth tells her that she may reveal his identity if she wishes.
  • Chapter XV-Hester feels hatred for Chillingworth as she leaves and is not repentant for her sin. She finds Pearl who has been playing with things of Nature.  She responds to Hester's questions and tells her mother that she knows that the A has the same meaning as Dimmesdale's holding his hand over his heart. Hester considers confiding in her child, but, instead,  she tells Pearl that she wears the letter "for the sake of its gold thread."  This is the first time Hester has been "false to the symbol."

The revolvement of the characters around Hester keeps the focus upon her sin, a sin to which the other two men are attached, albeit differently.  This focus is upon the Scarlet Letter and all its import.  This symbol is the title of the novel and the driving force of the plot.

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