The Scarlet Letter

What effect does Hester's information about Chillingworth have on Dimmesdale? How does this reaction change?

Chapters 16-18

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In the forest, Hester and Dimmesdale are finally able to escape both the public eye and Chillingworth. They join hands and sit in a secluded spot near a brook. Hester tells Dimmesdale that Chillingworth is her husband. This news causes a “dark transfiguration” in Dimmesdale, and he begins to condemn Hester, blaming her for his suffering. Hester, unable to bear his harsh words, pulls him to her chest and buries his face in the scarlet letter as she begs his pardon. Dimmesdale eventually forgives her, realizing that Chillingworth is a worse sinner than either of them. The minister now worries that Chillingworth, who knows of Hester’s intention to reveal his secret, will expose them publicly. Hester tells the minister not to worry. She insists, though, that Dimmesdale free himself from the old man’s power. The former lovers plot to steal away on a ship to Europe, where they can live with Pearl as a family.