The Scarlet Letter

Chapter 12

What is the "midnight Vigil," for which this chapter is titled? How is the midnight vigil significant?

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Dimmesdale, having left his house, walks until he reaches the scaffold where Hester Prynne suffered her public humiliation several years ago. He climbs the stairs and imagines that he has a scarlet letter on his chest that all the world can see. While in this state of mind, Dimmesdale screams aloud, and he is immediately terrified that the whole town has heard him. Dimmesdale seeks relief from his crushing guilt by doing this.