Here is just a collection of my random thoughts regarding chapters 17&18.
I just can't seem to figure out why Dimmesdale allows himself to destruct in that way when he knows there is an outside force causing him pain. He doesn't really even have to know that it is Chillingworth who is inflicting the pain upon him; if he senses an overly large amount of pain, he should seek out a way to rid himself of that. Instead, it almost seems though as if he is complacent because he just doesn't take any sort of action on helping himself.
Secondly, zodiac superlatives! I thought it would be fun to guess the characters' zodiacs, see if you agree!
Dimmesdale - Scorpio. Water signs are typically rich with emotions and feelings. He is mentioned multiple times in the novel as "sensitive". What really made me think that he is a Scorpio the stressing of how his "self was gone" after he returned from the forest. Dimmesdale feels that "another man had returned out of the forest; a wiser one; with a knowledge of hidden mysteries which the simplicity of the former never could have reached" (194). This reminded me of the scorpio's symbol, the scorpion, because it's similar to the process of scorpion's shedding their skin in the molting process.
Pearl - Gemini. Pearl has the many characteristics of an air sign, quirky and intelligent. Hester addresses Pearl as "Thou strange child" (182). Hawthorne constantly conveys to the audience the peculiarity of Pearl through his descriptions of her being. The part in the novel that really led me to believe that Pearl was a gemini is the occurrences of her seeing her reflection in the water. One of them is where Pearl "had paused the brook chanced to form a pool, so smooth and quiet that it reflected a perfect image of her little figure" (181). This idea of double is like the symbol of the gemini, the twins.
Chillingworth - Sagittarius. Chillingworth is not so much related to this week's reading but I thought it'd be nice to include him. He was previously described as Satan, a "fiend". These are all relative to hell, which suggest that he could be a fire sign! I just thought that he'd seem like a sagittarius the most because the sagittarius is an archer. The points of the arrow remind me of Satan's fork.
Hester - Virgo. My conclusion of Hester's zodiac does not come so much from this week's reading either. I derived this conclusion because she is not extreme like a fire or water sign. She doesn't seem to have the quirkiness commonly possessed by air signs nor does she understand it, so that disassociates her with the air signs and leaves the earth signs. Virgo's have an eye for detail and are very organized people. This is seen throughout the novel through her thread work. Despite her hardships, she still manages to be on top of everything, to persevere through the pain.
PS I initially thought Dimmesdale was a Pisces and Chillingworth as a Scorpio but the textual evidences I could find say otherwise. If you have any other opinions feel free to contribute in the comments section!