Describe Dimmesdale's "crime", punishment, and people's conception of him in chapters 9-13 of The Scarlet Letter.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In these particular chapters, Dimmesdale is viewed as a pious and respected man by the community. They are concerned about his illness, but they think it's physical and are happy when Chillingworth agrees to treat him. Dimmesdale knows his sin with Hester is the cause of his illness, but he can't at this time admit to it publicly because he doesn't want to make himself feel better at the expense of the community. The Puritans relied on their ministers for spiritual guidance, and Dimmesdale is afraid how the community would react to his confession. He tortures himself physically, trying to find absolution for his sin of adultery, but it doesn't work. He then tries to assuage his guilt by standing on the scaffold, the same place Hester was punished years ago. Hester and Pearl join him, and Pearl asks Dimmesdale if he'll stand on the scaffold in broad daylight. When he tells her he can't at that time, Pearl teases him with her knowledge of Chillingworth's real identity. Chapters 9 through 13 stress Dimmesdale's anguish as an adulterer and the responsibility he feels to his church members.


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