The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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How does Hawthorne move the story forward in chapter 9-15 in "The Scarlet Letter"?

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These chapters advance several of the central themes in the book, and reinforce the symbolic structure Hawthorne has built into the story. These themes have to do with Chillingworth’s revenge – it’s in Chapter 9 that Chillingworth begins to “treat” Dimmesdale, who is growing ill and constantly clutching his heart – and Dimmesdale’s guilt, which becomes a crisis of faith. In Chapter 10, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth have a conversation about “hidden” sins, and the symbol of the weed that grows from the unrepentant heart is from chapter is introduced. In fact, Chillingworth is himself usurping the role of “spiritual guide” for Dimmesdale; part of his plan is to use Dimmesdale’s own faith and guilt to torment him. In Chapter 11, Dimmesdale’s guilt becomes more acute, and he begins to scourge himself. He comes up with the idea of a nighttime vigil on the scaffold where Hester was humiliated years before, and, in Chapter 12 , he goes to the scaffold. He is wracked with pain...

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