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In Chapter 8 of The Scarlet Letter, what does Chillingworth note about Dimmesdale's...

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dinoigirlkylie | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 17, 2009 at 8:05 AM via web

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In Chapter 8 of The Scarlet Letter, what does Chillingworth note about Dimmesdale's defense of Hester?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 17, 2009 at 11:12 AM (Answer #1)

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Chillingsworth notes that Dimmesdale presents his defense of Hester with unusual passion.  He says to him,

"You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness".

When Hester feels that the group led by Governor Bellingham is going to take Pearl away from her, she grows desperate.  Not knowing where else to turn, she begs Dimmesdale to speak for her.  She tells him,

"I will not lose the child!  Speak for me!...thou knowest what is in my heart, and what are a mother's rights, and how much stronger they are when that mother has but her child and the scarlet letter!"

Recognizing that Hester is close to madness, and in her desperation would do anything to keep her child, Dimmesdale is moved to speak.  He eloquently argues that God does not distinguish between a child born of sin and one born of "holy love", and he suggests that God, in His wisdom, might have given the child to Hester in order to save her soul -

"as if it were by the Creator's sacred pledge, that, if she bring the child to heaven, the child also will bring the parent thither".

Dimmesdale is sincere in his feeling for Hester, but he is also most likely afraid that, in her terror at the thought of losing Pearl, she might expose him as her partner in sin, a secret heretofore kept hidden.  It is this fear that lends extraordinary urgency to Dimmesdale's appeal, an urgency that Chillingsworth, ever watchful, notes and remarks upon (Chapter 8).

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