Notes to Ch 10, The Leech and His Patient
The Scarlet Letter

Bunyan's awful door-way in the hill-side ...sl10.html#g01
See Pilgrim's Progress, 1678: "Then I saw in my dream, that the Shepherds had them to another place, in a bottom, where was a door in the side of a hill, and they opened the door, and bid them look in. They looked in, therefore, and saw that within it was very dark and smoky; they also thought that they heard there a rumbling noise as of fire, and a cry of some tormented, and that they smelt the scent of brimstone. Then said Christian, What means this? The Shepherds told them, This is a by-way to hell, a way that hypocrites go in at; namely, such as sell their birthright, with Esau; such as sell their master, with Judas; such as blaspheme the gospel, with Alexander; and that lie and dissemble, with Ananias and Sapphira his wife."... (Note that no "gleams of ghastly fire" darted from the opening, as Hawthorne misquotes.)
And at the end of the entire book, this is what happens to Ignorance: "Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction. So I awoke, and behold it was a dream." Hawthorne was very impressed by Pilgrim's Progress and John Bunyan's use of allegory no doubt influenced Hawthorne's technique. See "The Celestial Rail-road" for Hawthorne's criticism of the Internet, and of modern technology such as the railroads in 19th-century American life.
Holy Writ ...sl10.html#g11
The reference to the Bible is to James 5:16-- "Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Confession is central to this novel. We have already seen Reverend Wilson exhort Hester to repent and confess publicly on the scaffold. Here Dimmesdale rationalizes why he does not confess, saying that Holy Writ does not require public confession. He does not really believe this--if he did, he would not agonize over the issue for the rest of the novel, and reach final closure by his complete repentance and public confession at the end. There is a difference between private confession and public confession, explored usefully by Ernest W. Baughman ("Public Confession and the Scarlet Letter," New England Quarterly, 1967, 40:532-50). Private confession to a Puritan minister could not bring absolution as to a Catholic or Anglican priest. The sinner would not only have to confess publicly in church (for many crimes as well as sins, and this was indeed common practice in Puritan Boston society) but then stand trial for the offense as well. Thus Dimmesdale even if he had confessed to Wilson would probably still have to confess publicly in church and then would probably have been executed as an adulterer. The sin is compounded by Dimmesdale's continuing to take the Holy Sacrament and administer it to others--this requires complete repentance first. Dimmesdale rationalizes here, thinking that if he confessed he would not be able to serve God's calling as a minister. Hawthorne shows that he is rationalizing when he comments, "He had a faculty, indeed, of escaping from any topic that agitated his too sensitive and nervous temperament." (g17). Although Hawthorne would agree that nobody else should intervene between God and a sinner, Dimmesdale as a Puritan minister should not have agreed--but in either case, it is finally a matter for the sinner's conscience, and here we see the workings of it. (In The Marble Faun, Hawthorne has one character confess privately to a Catholic priest, and he mentioned to James Russell Lowell that he had thought of doing the same with Dimmesdale, but of course that would have ruined this book.)
the day when all hidden things shall be revealed ...sl10.html#g11
Dimmesdale refers here to the Day of Judgment, the final days of history when God reviews the deeds of men and weighs their sins and passes judgment, condemning some to hell and others to heaven. He is saying that only God can judge the human heart. But then he is really saying that he wants to wait until then before repenting. This is too late for Dimmesdale and too late for us readers.
no evil of the past be redeemed by better service ...sl10.html#g15
Here Dimmesdale refers to his own plan to keep secret in his heart his sin, and make up for it by good works. This strongly parallels Hester's predicament, though she has less choice in the matter than does Dimmesdale--eventually she does reveal a secret to Dimmesdale, but only at the expense of breaking a promise to her husband not to reveal his identity. Hester too carries around a flaming pain in her bosom and this pricks her to do good works to make up for it. However, the Puritans did not believe this was enough--repentance and grace were required as well as good works. Eventually we come around to the other side, but here the battle plans are made out for our story.
at the cattle-trough in Spring Lane ...sl10.html#g20
The cattle trough in Spring Lane would have been a crossroads, right in the middle of downtown Boston of the day, a block away from the docks to the east and equally the Boston Common to the west, and a block south of Governor Bellingham's house and a block north of Governor Winthrop's. No doubt it would have been muddy and an attraction for the students coming from school a block to the west, next to the apartment of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. We see no reason why Pearl would have to be the only child to splatter a passer-by with mud from it.
a bygone and buried generation ...sl10.html#g23
Although Pearl was according to a previous chapter supposed to attend school and church we do not know if that has happened, and her behavior here seems to indicate that her isolation is continuing. Her playing in the burying ground shows off a contrast between her freedom and the severe orthodoxy of the first generation of Puritan immigrants, who would be the ones buried here. But the author goes further, noting not only her eccentricities but that she might be "a law unto herself." What does this mean? That she already is going her own course, perhaps away from God, or that in the future she may be capable of love and thus obeying the New Law instead of the Old Law? Chillingworth seems to take a pessimistic view, perhaps ascribing her behavior to the Devil (maybe in turn for her sauciness in describing him as the Devil or Black Man), while Dimmesdale takes a more paternal view.
the one Physician of the soul ...sl10.html#g36
He is referring to God. But he neglects the role of a proper Puritan minister to minister to the soul just as a physician ministers to the body.
the art's sake ...sl10.html#g40
Obviously Chillingworth's quest is not for art or his interest in science, or his curiosity in psychology or medicine. But he is excusing his unnatural search by these means. He has been accusing his patient Dimmesdale of being untrue to his own heart, while here he falls into the same trap of hypocrisy.

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