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In his act of adultery, Dimmesdale discovers a passion he is unprepared to recognise in himself. This must be repressed and denied. Rather than confess, and be cast aside by society, he embarks upon a journey of self-inflicted mental and physical torture. Despite his misery, he is unable to commit himself to any course of action. Ultimately he manipulates Hester into taking responsibility for his life. In chapter seventeen, he declares that ‘there is not the strength or courage left me to venture into the wide, strange, difficult world alone!’ In response Hester says she will go with him. Dimmesdale is still hiding from the truth. When he faces the truth it becomes clear that he cannot marry Hester and escape his fate, he must take responsibility for his own past actions even if it ends in his death.
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