In Chapter 14 of the Scarlet Letter, how is the doctrine of predestination reflected in the conversation betweeen Hester and Chillingworth?I'm really having trouble with this question.. Can anyone...

In Chapter 14 of the Scarlet Letter, how is the doctrine of predestination reflected in the conversation betweeen Hester and Chillingworth?

I'm really having trouble with this question.. Can anyone help me. please?

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lynnebh's profile pic

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

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In this chapter, Hester is asking Roger Chillingworth to forgive Dimmesdale and to stop torturing him. Dimmesdale refuses to do this. He tells Hester that he remembers the teachings of “his old faith” (because he now does not seem to have any faith). He says that it would make no difference for him to forgive Dimmesdale because everything has already been decided, long ago, as to who is going to be forgiven and who is not going to be forgiven. He tells Hester that the outcome that will result from her “first step awry” has already been determined and that she should “let the black flower blossom as it may!” which means, God has already determined the outcome for all three of them – Hester, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth.

My old faith, long forgotten, comes back to me, and explains all that we do, and all we suffer. By thy first step awry, thou didst plant the germ of evil; but since that moment, it has all been a dark necessity. Ye that have wronged me are not sinful, save in a kind of typical illusion; neither am I fiend-like, who have snatched a fiend's office from his hands. It is our fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may! Now go thy ways, and deal as thou wilt with yonder man.

The concept of predestination means that God has determined before the foundation of time who will be saved and who will not be saved. The people that he has chosen to be saved are called the "elect" and there is no way a human can know who is "elect" - that is the realm of God.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In Chapter XIV of The Scarlet Letter, Hester, as well as Roger Chillingworth, feels the sense of predestination.  As Hester pleads for mercy from Chillingworth, she tells him that she is as guilty as is Dimmesdale, pleading for mercy and to be freed from her promise concerning the physician's identity.  It is at this moment that Hester and Chillingworth share a moment of shared pity.  But, he says that since the moment of the adultery, "it has all been a dark necessity."

Hester contends that Dimmesdale must know who Chillingworth truly is so that he does not live a life of "ghastly emptiness."  But, Hester will not "stoop to implore...mercy":

"So with him as thou wilt!  There is no good for him--no good for me--no good for thee!  There is no good for little Pearl!  There is no path to guide us out of this dismal maze."

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