The Scarlet Letter Chapter 12 Summary And Analysis
Upon leaving his house, the ailing minister goes to the scaffold on which Hester and her child stood seven years prior. As he steps up to the scaffold, he becomes so overwhelmed by self-loathing that he begins to cry into the night loudly.
As Hester and Pearl return from their visit to ailing Governor Winthrop, they find Dimmesdale on the scaffold, and they both join him. They stand hand-in-hand with Pearl in between Dimmesdale and Hester. Pearl then asks Dimmesdale twice whether he shall stand with them the next day at noon. However, Dimmesdale answers that he will only stand with them on God’s Judgement day.
Dimmesdale notices a red light in the sky shaped like a big letter A. He also notices Pearl pointing at Roger Chillingworth, who is now standing nearby. Terrified, Dimmesdale inquiries Hester about Chillingworth’s true identity. However, Hester keeps silent in honor of her promise to Chillingworth.
After the next day’s sermon, the minister is startled by the sexton who returns one of his gloves that fell at the scaffold. He then asks about the letter A that appeared in the sky.
A Short Analysis of the Chapter 12
This is the second scaffold scene in the novel. It places the two sinners upon the scaffold and focuses on the minister’s guilt and punishment. The reader can see the manifestations of Dimmesdale’s subconscious mind. Though Pearl pesters him to speak out the issue, his fear still gets the better of him. This second refusal to acknowledge his sin might suggest the initial two denials of Simon Peter to Christ.
The light in the sky was a meteor, but in those days, such phenomena had a supernatural perception, and the letter A was merely Dimmesdale’s imagination. All the parties present at this scene are symbolic of the church, the state, and the Evil world.