Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis
Hester and Dimmesdale cross paths on the road. They sit together on a patch of moss in the woods, where they engage in simple small talk until they feel strong enough to tackle the big issues. Finally, the minister asks Hester, "Hast thou found peace?" She smiles drearily. Neither of them have found peace, and Dimmesdale suspects that he never will. His good work in the church has only made him more miserable, because he thinks it makes him a hypocrite. He wishes he could wear a scarlet letter on his clothes like Hester does. None of the people who claim to adore him know who he really is.
Hester reminds Dimmesdale that he isn't alone in his suffering. These seven years, she has borne the burden of their secret, and she understands his guilt and pain. In spite of her degradation in the eyes of the public, she has never fallen out of love with him. She feels that she must be truthful with him now: Chillingworth is her former husband, and she has allowed Dimmesdale to live with the enemy. She begs his forgiveness, and he in turn begs her to save him from Chillingworth.