The Scarlet Letter Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis

Hester joins the procession heading for the meeting house, where Dimmesdale is set to deliver his Election Sermon. Magistrates and soldiers alike join this procession, and Hawthorne praises them for their nobility, their grace, and their upstanding service to the colony, though he does admit that none of them appear as bright as statesmen Bellingham, Bradstreet, Endicott, and Dudley, who all served as Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at some point, often multiple times.

Reverend Dimmesdale walks with the magistrates, looking positively energetic. Hester looks at him then and realizes that he's no longer the man who sat with her, murmuring and confused, by the little babbling brook in Chapter 19. She can't forgive him for abandoning them. Even Pearl is shocked by the changes in the minister. She wonders aloud what would've happened if she'd asked the Reverend to kiss her on the forehead as he did before.

Meanwhile, Mistress Hibbins has made her way through the procession to Hester. Suspecting her of being a witch, the crowd gives Mistress Hibbins a wide berth and allows her to approach Hester and Pearl. The old witch wants to talk about the fact that Dimmesdale went for a walk in the woods—an unholy place where witches like Mistress Hibbins are said to commune with the Devil. Hester won't hear anything against Dimmesdale, and finally the old witch leaves, cackling.

When the procession arrives at the meeting house, the crowd proves too large to fit inside it. Hester and Pearl are forced to find a spot outside where they can listen to Dimmesdale's sermon. His voice proves to quiet, however, and they aren't able to hear every word; but Hester understand the emotion in his voice. Pearl meanwhile grows bored with the sermon and starts to frolic around the market. If the Puritans had any doubt about her being a demon child, those doubts vanish as Pearl plays.

Unaware of the consequences of her actions, Pearl approaches the Native Americans and the sailors in turn. Seeing her beauty, the shipmaster gives her a gold chain and asks her to take a message back to her mother: that Chillingworth has arranged to pay for Dimmesdale's passage on the boat and that Hester need not worry herself about the money. He makes the mistake of calling Pearl a witch-baby, however, and she threatens to have the Devil curse his boat. Nevertheless, she delivers the message.

Finally, the Puritans grow bored with the sermon and began to torment Hester, like always.

Allusions
 
Richard Bellingham (1592 - 1672). An English barrister who moved to the New World and served several terms as the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
 
Simon Bradstreet (1603 - 1697). Another colonial magistrate, Bradstreet was the final Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
 
John Endicott (1601 - 1664). A prominent statesman and the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
 
Thomas Dudley (1576 - 1653). Like the other men Hawthorne alludes to in this chapter, Dudley was a magistrate who served as the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He founded the city that would become Cambridge.
 
House of Peers. Another name for the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament in the United Kingdom.
 
The Knights Templar. The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or the Knights Templar, was a very wealthy, powerful military order that played a significant role in Christian finance and the Church in the Middle Ages. When the Knights and their fellow crusaders lost control of the Holy Land during the Crusades, the Knights Templar fell out of favor. Many of their members were burned at the stake before the group finally disbanded. Hawthorne alludes to them to aggrandize the soldiers in Boston.
 
Privy Council of the Sovereign. The Privy Council of England was a powerful group of advisors (many of whom served in the Houses of Parliament) who guided the Sovereign in the use of royal charters. The Privy Council also had some judicial powers. Hawthorne alludes to them to suggest that the magistrates present at the procession have proven themselves capable of serving on councils as powerful as this.