In chapter 18, what uncharacteristic actions does Hester take?  "The Scarlet Letter"  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having convinced Arthur Dimmesdale to leave the Puritan colony that is the source only of anguish, Hester declares,

'With this symbol, I undo it all, and make it as it had never been!'

Hester undoes the clasp and takes the scarlet letter of, throwing it among "the withered leaves" and the "token" of their sin lies on the other side of the brook, looking like a lost jewel.  When she casts off the scarlet letter, Hester sighs in relief, and impulsively throws off her cap as well. In a rush, her hair cascades upon her shoulders, but it appears dark and rich again against the face that is radiant.

This uncharacteristic act for the modest, submissive woman that Hester has become is but a brief surcease from her pain.  For, the letter has become so much a part of her identity that Pearl will not allow Hester to be without it, and Hester must reach down and regain the symbol of her sin.  For, as Hawthorne, the narrator of his "The Scarlet Letter," remarks,

No man, for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.

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The Scarlet Letter

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