In Chapter 22 of The Scarlet Letter, "The Procession," how is Dimmesdale different than ever before? What does Pearl want the minister to do? What three "secrets" does Mistress Hibbins reveal to...

In Chapter 22 of The Scarlet Letter, "The Procession," how is Dimmesdale different than ever before? What does Pearl want the minister to do? What three "secrets" does Mistress Hibbins reveal to Hester? And what message does the ship captain give Pearl to give to Hester? How do people in the crowd respond to Hester?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As per eNotes policy we can only answer a certain number of questions at a time. I will try to be as concise as possible. 

Chapter 22 of The Scarlet Letter is set on Election Day, which is a very special day for the villagers. During this time, Reverend Dimmesdale is expected to give one of his powerful sermons, with special emphasis today, given the honorable nature of the festivities. 

After their conversation in the forest, Dimmesdale undergoes something supernatural that comes over him, sort of like a maleficent force, that makes him do crazy and bad things. This sudden outburst leaves Dimmesdale a changed man. He is so changed, indeed, that even Hester and Pearl could feel a totally different demeanor in the man when he walked in the procession shortly after. 

There was his body, moving onward, and with an unaccustomed force. But where was his mind? Far and deep in its own region, busying itself, with preternatural activity, to marshal a procession of stately thoughts that were soon to issue thence; and so he saw nothing, heard nothing, knew nothing, of what was around him....

Pearl, whose wise and old soul could sense this change, asks Hester whether this is the same man that would give them a kiss in the forest. She wonders, therefore, if he would dare to do that openly in the marketplace. Hester answers reproachfully as she, too, notices that something is just not right with this man. 

Mistress Hibbins basically taunts Hester, as she does with everyone else, about things that she claims to know, or says that she suspects. To Hester she says, namely, that she knows who is "the man in the forest" (Dimmesdale), that she knows that this man has changed for good from the meeting in the forest, and that she also suspects that he is the father of Pearl.

This is not said directly, but it is clear that she does suspect that because she says to Pearl that she comes from "air lineage," that her father must be from the air, hence, she should go fly with her sometimes. It all points out that Mistress Hibbins is convinced about the connection between Dimmesdale and Pearl.

In this chapter, Hester is just about to find out that Chillingworth has booked himself passage on the same ship that Hester had planned for herself, Pearl and Dimmesdale. Chillingworth does this under the guise that he will take the trip with Dimmesdale as a duo.

She does not know this yet, but the sailor had asked Pearl to tell her mother. We know that Pearl does as she pleases and when she pleases, so Hester does not find this out right away. 

"Wilt thou carry her a message from me?" "If the message pleases me I will," answered Pearl. "Then tell her," rejoined he, "that I spake again with the black-a-visaged, hump-shouldered old doctor, and he engages to bring his friend, the gentleman she wots of, aboard with him. So let thy mother take no thought, save for herself and thee. 

During this time in the novel, the crowd also turns on Hester. These would make 5 different inconveniences that the woman suffers in just one chapter. First, the change in Dimmesdale's demeanor toward her and Pearl just after having planned their escape. Second, the nagging questions of Pearl. Then, the harassment of Mistress Hibbins.

After that, the people look down at her and give her the cold shoulder; others openly mock her. To top it all, Chillingworth has just literally ruined her plans, although she does not know this yet. It is all too much for one person. One almost wonders how Hester is able to maintain her sanity after so much abuse in such a short period of time. 

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The Scarlet Letter

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