Notes to Ch 18, A Flood of Sunshine
The Scarlet Letter

The scarlet letter was her passport ...sl18.html#g02
The chapter starts with an attempt to answer the last question of the previous chapter, why Dimmesdale did not speak himself, but let Hester speak for him. We then are treated to the narrator's view of each. Hester is viewed as in a previous chapter, as isolated as much as the pagan Indians from the Puritan code, and thus by habit she had turned to making her own laws freely. (We will let this pass without criticizing it as exaggeration.) While this freedom sounds good, the narrator points out that there might be something wrong with it. Although shame, sorrow, isolation might be productive of new ideas, these new ideas must be tested further before put to use. But what Hawthorne is saying here is that the scarlet letter is doing its work by serving to make Hester confront and think about many things that other Puritans did not. It then allows her imagination to help her travel to mental places others cannot go. While feminists might admire a strong woman, the author is pointing out that this is not enough. Her moral view is compared to that of the pagan Indians in its freedom and lack of rigid laws, and ability to get along with Nature practically.
Meanwhile, Dimmesdale is approaching the situation from the opposite side--he is closed in as a minister and used to orthodox solutions. He is actually afraid of his emotions. Although he is a man, he is not strong like Hester. He must always be watchful of the passion he let carry himself away before with Hester. He cannot control it, it seems, and it might even be evil or the work of the Devil. His view of the Indians is like Eliot, he feels kindly toward them and wishes to save them, but his approach is not practical--at any moment he must feel they could break in on him, or that if he did escape it would not be to a place with better laws, but rather to one that was lawless, like he considered the Indians to be. It seems that Dimmesdale agrees in silence to the plan to escape with Hester, not so much because he likes it or thinks it a good idea, but rather that just now he can think of nothing better.
mystic token ...sl18.html#g11
Meaning mysterious symbol. Why does Hester take it off now? Does she now feel free of the Puritan laws? Or is it because when she escapes she will not need to wear it any longer? Or is it just an emotional response to what has just happened between them--that they can go back to being together without shame?
All at once...forth burst the sunshine ...sl18.html#g01
This is a wonderful pictorial description of a great emotion, where every word counts, as much for its sound as its meaning. One might be happy in the wilderness and not have to shut oneself up in a room in penance, as long as there is love. If Hester and Arthur did not say these words together or think these thoughts they should have.
A wolf, it is said,--... ...sl18.html#g01
The narrator returns to the Romantic and improbable embroidery, but pulls up short when he goes as far as telling the wolf story. We hear another little aside and regain a little distance after the intense emotional closeness of the preceding pages. We then relook at Pearl, wondering what will be her fate, and what she represents for this relationship--and Pearl sees the clergyman, and starts wondering too.

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&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;1999. 23 Sep. 1999. <br />
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Eldred, Eric. Notes to Ch. 18, The Scarlet Letter. 1999. 23 Sep. 1999.


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