In The Scarlet Letter, what does the last sentence in Chapter XVII mean? ("Then, all was spoken!")  

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The meeting in the forest between Arthur and Hester is both tender and poignant after their years of suffering and separation. Hester attempts to save Arthur's life--he obviously is failing fast--by freeing him from Chillingworth's grip and inspiring him to leave the village and his past behind him. Hester tries to enlarge Arthur's vision of his own life by making him aware that a good life exists for him outside the boundaries of their small, restrictive, and joyless community:

Then there is the broad pathway of the sea! . . It brought thee hither. If thou so choose, it will bear thee back again. In our native land, whether in some remote rural village, or in vast London,—or, surely, in Germany, in France, in pleasant Italy,—thou wouldst be beyond [Chillingworth's] power and knowledge! And what hast thou to do with all these iron men, and their opinions? They have kept thy better part in bondage too long already!

When Arthur responds that he lacks the strength to start a new life alone, Hester tells him that he will not be alone and "Then, all was spoken."

By telling Arthur that he will not go alone, Hester is vowing to go with him, thus effectively telling Arthur that she still loves him. What is spoken after that, we can infer, relates to their feelings for each other and what each has experienced during the years of Arthur's shame and Hester's punishment. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to infer that they also speak of their plans for the future and how specifically they can make their escape from this place.

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The Scarlet Letter

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