The Scarlet Letter Chapters 10-12 Summary

     Roger Chillingworth is determined to discover what is that eats young clergyman from the inside that causes so much torment to his physical body. He uses every opportunity to dig deeper into Mr. Dimmesdale's soul in order to unravel the mystery of his heart, but the more he pushes Dimmesdale to open up, the more Dimmesdale retreats, feeling that the doctor has a hidden motif to ask so much. One of such examples lays in a scene of Roger Chillingworth collecting herbs in a cemetery, discussing sins of a deceased buried there with Mr. Dimmesdale. There is a nasty weed growing from the unmarked grave, making the physician wonder whether the deceased person buried under has taken a gross sin into his grave, instead of confessing it to the priest. Mr. Dimmesdale defends the unknown "sinner" by saying that everyone should confess their sins only if they feel like confessing and not by compulsion. The physician seems unsatisfied with the answer and manages to link sins to the clergyman's poor health condition, openly asking whether there is something that he is hiding from him, that would hide the true cause of his illness. This sends Mr. Dimmesdale into unusual peevishness and he outbursts that medicine has nothing to do with the soul, therefore he does no longer need the physician to take care of him, as he will confide his soul to the God. He soon realizes how foolish he was to react so violently to an ordinary question, feeling sorry for that, unaware that Chillingworth's intentions are not good at all.

     On one occasion, Mr. Dimmesdale falls into a deep sleep, giving the physician the opportunity to investigate what is the thing that burdens this young clergyman so much. He approaches him as he is sleeping and puts his hand onto clergyman's chests, thrusting aside his vest and uncovering what has been hidden from everyone's eyes. The wild look in physician's eyes, joy and ecstatic mood of his finding makes him resemble a devil.

     After the incident, the relation between the physician and the clergyman is seemingly unchanged, although nothing is the same. The clergyman feels the presence of evil around him, scorning himself for attaching that sensation to his friend, physician, unlike Chillingworth, who spends days in self complacency after finally revealing the truth.

     Guilt and weakness that prevents him to stand in front of the crowd and admit his sins pressures Mr. Dimmesdale so much that it becomes his only thought. Mental restlessness starts taking its toll, as the clergyman, in a state of bewilderedness, heads outside in the middle of the night, only to take the position he believes he deserves, on the pedestal where Hester Prynne stood seven years ago. Although there is no one watching, the clergyman feels as if the whole universe has its eyes on his scarlet mark on his chests. Unbearable pressure makes him scream, drawing attention of several unsleeping Boston residents, who open their windows trying to locate the source of noise, unsuccessfully though. He remains silent on the pedestal in fear of being discovered up there and publicly mortified, until he spots Hester and Pearl passing by and summons them to join him. He explains his ridiculous action by saying that he should have been standing with them on that spot long time ago and he wants to atone for it now. As they stand on the pedestal, a light gleams over the sky, brightening the entire city as if it has dawned. A shape of the letter "A" appears in the sky, marked with red lines. At that moment, the clergyman notices a Roger Chillingworth standing near the scaffold, like a devil. Feeling the same threat, as he always does when near the physician, Mr. Dimmesdale asks Hester who is Roger, but Hester cannot answer this question, as she has given a promise to keep Roger's true identity a secret. Roger approaches, and pretending to be concerned for Mr. Dimmesdale's health, he offers to escort him home.

     The following day, the whole scene seems unreal to the clergyman, but when the minister brings Mr. Dimmesdale's glove from the scaffold, explaining that it must have been a devil who took it there, the clergyman realizes that everything from the previous night was real.

Related Links:

The Scarlet Letter Chapters 10-12 Quiz
The Scarlet Letter Chapters 13-15 Summary
The Scarlet Letter Chapters 16-18 Summary
The Scarlet Letter Summary
The Scarlet Letter Quotes
The Scarlet Letter Important Characters
The custom-house introductory to 'The scarlet letter' Summary
The Scarlet Letter Quiz
Literature Summaries
Nathaniel Hawthorne Facts

To link to this The Scarlet Letter Chapters 10-12 Summary page, copy the following code to your site: