A debt is then the reason the physical appearances of self-reproach begin manifesting in Hester, through the loss of her womanly luster and her confronting Chillingworth and Dimmesdale on a resolution to their circumstances. “Hester saw-or seemed to see-that there lay a responsibility upon her, in reference to the clergyman, which she owed no other, nor to the whole world besides” (153). However, Pearl was the one who first pointed out to Hester the Black Man’s presence in Dimmesdale. “To Hester’s eye, the reverend Mr. Dimmesdale exhibited no symptom of positive or vivacious suffering, except that, as little Pearl remarked, he kept his hand over his heart” (185). Hawthorne uses Hester’s realization as a way to represent Pearl’s sensitivity to sin. Through Pearl, Hester can entreat Chillingworth to stop his weathering, and approach Dimmesdale with her proposal to run away. She allows her pent-up emotions for Dimmesdale rise and convinces him to listen and leave with her. By realizing their shared sense of guilt in the need to escape the place that condemns them, whether with a visible or obscured symbol, they have accepted the fact that disgrace has changed them, causing them to no longer fit within the schemas of their homes. “‘But this long debt of confidence, due from me to him, whose bane and ruin I have been, shall at length be paid'” (168). Hester knows Dimmesdale’s deterioration is a result of his sin. The way she repays him is by granting him a soul which understands the way guilt has eaten away at his heart. With the debt accounted for, Hester and Dimmesdale look towards escape from Boston and Chillingworth as a finale to their chaotic lives.
Blame may be something one person does to another, but it takes a consciousness of wrong doing to feel guilty. And Hester feels plenty guilty. Also guilty? Dimmesdale. The one person in this messy triangle who seems to escape the feeling of guilt is Chillingworth—but he gets plenty of blame. By the end of The Scarlet Letter , both Hester and Dimmesdale agree that Chillingworth is the real villain in this situation. And the only way to relieve your guilt? To confess. We're not positive, but we think that, when Chillingworth leaves his fortune to Pearl, he's doing just that: guilty as charged.