The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter book cover
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How does Hester transform herself during the encounter with Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter?

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When Hester meets with Dimmesdale in the forest (in chapter 18: "A Flood of Sunshine"), they speak for a while, especially after she confesses to him that Chillingworth (who's been torturing Dimmesdale) is her long-missing husband.  Although Dimmesdale is angry at her at first, the pair eventually begin to make plans to run away together on a ship, leaving Boston forever, because they are still very much in love.  Feeling joyfully for the first time in a long time, Hester removes the scarlet letter from her chest and takes off her cap, releasing her long hair onto her shoulders.  In this moment, "A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek, that had been long so pale.  Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back [...]."  The sun begins to shine on her as it has not done for years, and she seems to come back to life.  She did not realize the terrible burden of the scarlet letter until she removed it and felt the freedom of its weight having been lifted.  She smiled a "radiant and tender smile."  However, when she must replace the letter and cap, they functioned like a "withering spell," and the radiance and youthfulness that Hester exuded without them melted away.

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