Chapter 22 – The Procession
Pearl and Hester watch the procession and finally the Minister comes.
He has changed, showing great energy and purpose. He now seems remote to them and he does not even give them a fleeting sign of recognition. He is aloof and he has an inner spiritual strength.
Mistress Hibbins approaches Hester and Pearl and she reveals that she knows
the Minister has a hidden sin comparable to Hester’s scarlet token. She knows a fellow sinner when she sees one.
Pearl is also confused by what she has seen and she says to her mother, “was
that the same Minister that kissed me by the brook?”
Hester responds, “We must not always talk in the market place of what happens to us in the forest.” Pearl runs away from her mother in her bright red dress, and she meets the ship’s Captain who gives her a message for her mother that Chillingworth has secured passage for himself and Dimmesdale on the ship. When Hester hears this she feels panic and glances round at the crowd and sees the same faces that were at the first scaffold scene.
The Chapter ends with this quote “The sainted Minister in the church!
The woman of the scarlet letter in the market place! Who would believe that the same scorching stigma was on them both?”
Hawthorne hints that Dimmesdale and Hester will not end up together, as
Dimmesdale has become remote. She thinks that she must have dreamed their meeting in the forest, as Dimmesdale seems wholly unsympathetic.
The involvement of Mistress Hibbins is a foreshadowing of the unhappy end to
this tale. She indicates that she is aware of Dimmesdale’s sin. Remember that early on in the book we learn of clandestine meetings in the woods.
She knows what goes on under the boughs of the trees and she knows who visits the woods through the expressions on their faces. The old witch goes on to reveal that the Minister’s sin will soon be public knowledge.