Chapter 18 – A Flood of Sunshine
The Minister starts to take on courage from Hester’s support and resolves to
leave the Puritan colony. He reasons that if he is a doomed soul, then there is nothing he can do about that by remaining.
Hester discards the scarlet letter and throws it into the trees.
“The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long deep sigh in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit. By another impulse, she took off the formal cap that confined her hair, and down it fell upon her shoulders, dark and rich. A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek that had been long so pale. Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty came back.”
Hester is now at one with nature and she wants Pearl to know, and she tells
Dimmesdale that Pearl will love him.
While Hester and Dimmesdale have been talking, Pearl has again been playing
in the woods. “A fox, startled from his sleep by her light footstep on the leaves, looked inquisitively at Pearl, as doubting whether it were better to steal off, or renew his nap on the same spot. A
wolf, came up, and smelt Pearl’s robe and offered his savage head to be patted by her hand.”
Her parents now beckon Pearl, but she is reluctant to leave the world that
In the Summary above are two important quotes, which describe Hester’s
release from the bonds of the Puritan society, and Pearl’s oneness with nature and the wilderness.
Dimmesdale decides to make his escape from the colony because he reasons
that if he is doomed, then he might as well try and obtain some solace, which he cannot do under the present circumstances.
Hester reveals to Dimmesdale what is available if he takes this step, by
symbolically removing the scarlet letter and letting her hair fall free without the confines of the cap.
She is, in fact, transforming herself from a dull, gray, fallen woman into a passionate human being who is in love with Dimmesdale.
This whole Chapter is full of imagery and forms an oasis amongst the Gothic
Chapters before and after.
The description of Pearl in the woods with the animals is full of pagan
imagery, totally at odds with the Puritan society. She communes with a partridge, squirrel, fox and wolf, which approach her as they regard this human child as a kindred wilderness spirit.
Hawthorne clearly intends to show that this is Pearl’s true environment.
She is a gentle, elflike creature in stark contrast to the mischievous child in the streets of the town. Whether Hester and Dimmesdale’s love will meet with Pearl’s approval will be revealed next.