Notes to Ch 17, A Pastor and His Parishioner
The Scarlet Letter

a tongue of Pentecost ...sl17.html#g16
We have already in Chapter 11 discussed the meaning of Pentecost. Again, it is being used to stand for eloquence in speech. But here Dimmesdale is also saying that he is a sinner who does not have the right to administer the Holy Sacrament. There is a great irony again in his referring to Pentecost, as this is the grace of the Holy Ghost for sinners, but he is not able to receive it, and thus his gift for speech is mere hypocrisy--no matter how much he tries to humble himself and tell the truth--he needs to publicly confess, repent, seek forgiveness, and wait for God's grace.
penitence...good works ...sl17.html#g17
Hester replies that penitence need not be public in church, but can be private, and that doing good works stands for the same thing. But this is no relief for Dimmesdale, who realizes the futility of penance--without penitence--and good works more than does Hester.
magnetic ...sl17.html#g23
Twice the author refers to magnetism in this chapter. Magnetism was known in Puritan days, but by 1850 it was still poorly understood. Some quacks were sensationalizing it in traveling shows, capitalizing on its general mysteriousness and the superstitious interpretations of common folk who thought there was something of the Devil behind it. It was still a strong word to use for psychological control of one over another.
Its result, on earth, could hardly fail to be insanity... ...sl17.html#g23
It was not the fact that Hester realized that Chillingworth was irritating and torturing Dimmesdale's conscience that is the point here--it is that if Chillingworth drove the pastor crazy, then he would not have a chance to act upon his clear conscience, would not repent, and would never be saved. This would separate him from God forever--and prevent any chance of the two of them being reunited in Heaven. Hester is moving from thinking about the pastor in terms of abstract morality, to a more emotional, direct love, now that she has the chance to be with him in this close meeting. Her speech, using his first name, is appropriately impassioned and carries the story on.
What we did had a consecration of its own,... ...sl17.html#g32
"What we did" could not be told in a book in 1850. This is as close as we get to it, and it is prettily covered over with sentiment--a sentiment that many illicit lovers no doubt have used through the years to reassure each other that their love is true and stronger than society's condemnation. In a few minutes Arthur will realize that he is facing just that condemnation if Chillingworth goes public. The great love of the few minutes past seems to be less important to him--what can Hester do with this guy?
Then, all was spoken! ...sl17.html#g56
Hester has decided for the two of them that they will go away. In doing so, she has decided that they will go together. Thus she has also decided that they will live together. Thus she has decided that they will share each other's fate. Thus they will continue to consummate their love. It is strange that Dimmesdale agrees without speaking. Why didn't he think of this first? Does he have some internal resistance, or does he have other plans in mind that he will not mention?

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