In Chapter 13 of The Scarlet Letter, why does Hester decide to reveal the secret of Roger Chillingworth's identity to Mr. Dimmesdale?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Hester decided to reveal Roger Chillingworth's secret identity to Mr. Dimmesdale because, after her private conversation with Dimmesdale (Chapter 12), she could see that he was on the verge of lunacy, unless he had already crossed over the verge already. Chillingworth had made himself indispensable to Dimmesdale and he was always with Dimmesdale; yet Mr. Dimmesdale had no idea of his true identity and his former connection to Hester.

Hester decided that she had a responsibility to Mr. Dimmesdale that necessitated the breaking of her silence and informing him of the truth about Roger Chillingworth. Since Hester knew the past circumstances, she could surmise that something more than and stronger than Dimmesdale's own conscience was at work in his life, reducing him to "childish weakness."

The condition in which she discovered Dimmesdale to be coupled with her own knowledge and sense of responsibility toward him made Hester decide to tell him Roger Chillingworth's secret identity.

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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By Chapter 13, Roger Chillingworth's companionship of Mr. Dimmesdale has begun to take a serious toll on Dimmesdale. When Hester speaks with Dimmesdale, she is shocked by his weakness, and she thinks that "his nerve seemed absolutely destroyed." Hester, by expiating her own guilt over the past several years, has become stronger. Her years of punishment and isolation have turned her away from passion to "marble coldness," and instead of feeling, she is more comfortable now with thinking. Her many years of punishment have given her time to reflect, and she wonders if she should have rescued Dimmesdale earlier from the secret evil of Chillingworth. Now, seeing that Dimmesdale is on the brink of what she regards as "lunacy," she asks herself if she might have stepped in earlier to spare Dimmesdale. She feels that perhaps a lack of courage or loyalty on her part prevented her from doing so. She now feels stronger, is able to help Dimmesdale, and wants to correct the error of her past ways for not having helped Dimmesdale.


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