Notes to Ch. 24, Conclusion
The Scarlet Letter

being a potent necromancer ...sl24.html#g02
not only a magician, but a practitioner of black magic, as well as ordinary medicines. The drug atropine could have had the effect on Dimmesdale as described in the book, but that would not be black magic.
sobre or sombre?.... sl24.html#g09
The first edition text reads "sobre-hued" (dark colored) but most likely that is a misprint for "sombre-hued" (dark colored), as Ce0162 has on p275. (We cannot find any other occurrence of "sobre" in Hawthorne's texts, but many of "sober" and "sombre".) Compare Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's comment concerning calling a special legislative session to vote electors for his brother: "I admire Speaker Feeney and President McKay's approach to this," Mr. Bush said. "They're accepting their responsibility in a sober somber way, which they should." [transcription by New York Times, December 1, 2000]
that burial ground beside which King's Chapel ...sl24.html#g12
By the way, tourists continue to look in vain for this fictitious headstone among those in the King's Chapel burying ground and elsewhere. In his American Note-Books of 1835, Hawthorne referred to coats-of-arms inside King's Chapel (which was not built until after this story).
One observer strolling Boston graveyards as Hawthorne did found that no such heraldry was allowed until the last part of the 17th century--the earliest being this one of Elizabeth Pain, of 1740. (On the other hand, apparently in the 19th century a number of fake heraldic emblems were added to the grave monuments of Revolutionary war heroes and even that of John Winthrop--it is not known if Hawthorne ever noted the wry contradiction of aristocratic English emblems on republican American graves.)
Buford Jones raises the question of who planned the gravestone. (By the way, the story does not say that the stone contained the words "sable" and "gules," only that this is what the emblem expressed in heraldic terms.) It might have been Hester herself? Or perhaps Pearl married a nobleman in England and so this fake emblem was warranted? Or is it just an astonishing commentary by the author that a story that begins with a declining democratic government has to end with the characters finding no place in the republic, but must place such an aristocratic symbol on their grave--what does that say about the place of novel-writing and art in America?
Dimmesdale's dying words seemed to indicate that he did not have faith the couple would be united after their deaths. But he could not expect anything at all since at that time he was truly repentant and utterly depended on God's grace to save him as a sinner. We cannot know whether they ever were united in Heaven, but Hawthorne is kind enough to suggest that Hester wanted to be buried next to Arthur, and perhaps then in the resurrection of the bodies they would ascend together.
On a field, sable, the letter, A, gules.... sl24.html#g12
heraldic language for a red letter A on a black shield. James Parker's Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry gives a fuller description of the term "gules,." indicating a little more connection to the red rose at the beginning of the story. Such coats-of-arms were common on tombstones of those who had, or pretended to have, some aristocratic heritage. A poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-78), "The Unfortunate Lover," ends with the line, "In a Field Sable, a Lover Gules." Also, Larry Buell has pointed out that "gules" is used by Sir Walter Scott in the introduction to Waverley, certainly read by Hawthorne, in an interestingly similar manner.
One point is that the line serves as a frame for the story, since Hawthorne had referred to a coat-of-arms in the introduction, and also in chapter 2, above the door of the ancestral home. Of course, an aristocracy and a democracy do not go together. The concept of honor to the individual implicit here, along with the transmutation of a life into art, might symbolize this story of human frailty and sorrow--as long as one remains true to oneself.

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