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This section begins as Hester re-enters her world as the new person that she has become. There is a great deal that we need to learn about this life. Can Hester support herself? What is Pearl "really" like? Will Hester, the convicted adultress, be allowed to keep her daughter? Will Hester have any continuing relationship with Dimmesdale? Will Pearl have a realtionship with Dimmesdale? What will the consequences of his hidden sin have on Dimmesdale's physical and mental health? What is Roger Chillingworth going to do now that he has sworn that he will uncover the adulterer? How will Dimmesdale react to Chillingworth when he accepts him as his physician? You get the point. There is a lot of information we need if we are to understand Chapter 17, the one that I feel is central to the entire novel.
I think Hawthorne does a great job with these chapters. We get the "information" we need, he builds some drama (second scaffold scene), and we are ready for the "resolution" --- which we find out, sadly, is going nowhere.
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