"this brook is the boundary between two worlds"
Charon ferries souls across the River Styx (1866)
Public DomainCharon ferries souls across the River Styx (1866) - Credit: Alexander Dmitrievich Litovchenko

In Dimmesdale’s imagination, the brook is the equivalent of the River Styx which, in Greek mythology, separates the world of the living from the Underworld, or Hades. The Styx is typically accessible only to the recently deceased who must pay the ferry-man, Charon, to row them over to the far side. There, they are met by the three-headed dog Cerberus who guards the gates to Hades and prevents those who enter from ever escaping. Only a handful of mortals have managed to overcome these obstacles.

Crossing the River Styx
Public DomainCrossing the River Styx - Credit: Joachim Patinir