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Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis

Now that Chillingworth knows Dimmesdale's secret, he intends to exact his revenge. He becomes a cruel, calculating man and takes every opportunity he can to hurt the minister. His torture is subtle, however, and the reverend isn't able to pinpoint exactly what has changed about Chillingworth. His former "friend" becomes a kind of enemy, and Dimmesdale comes to hate him. Still, the minister is tortured by his guilt, and he fears that his distrust of Chillingworth stems from this guilt rather than from Chillingworth's own actions. He doesn't confront his enemy and instead suffers in silence.

Meanwhile, Dimmesdale becomes even more popular as a minister. His sensitivity makes it easy to relate to his flock, who admire him over the older, more learned scholars in Boston. This emotional and sensitive nature stems from his guilt, which keeps him from climbing to the high ranks of men. He instead remains on the same level as his parishioners. Most of the girls in his church fall in love with him. Elderly citizens expect him to die first and wish to be buried near him.

This popularity only makes Dimmesdale worse. It weighs heavily on his conscience and leads him to think of himself as a kind of pollution. He fantasizes about standing at the pulpit and confessing his sins. Several times, he denigrates himself in front of his flock, referring to himself as "a thing of unimaginable iniquity," but this only makes them love him more. In response, Dimmesdale starts to whip himself with a scourge. He stands in front of a...

(The entire section is 515 words.)