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Does Dimmesdale ever make any attempts to speak with Pearl in The Scarlet Letter by...

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emram16 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 2, 2013 at 6:05 PM via web

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Does Dimmesdale ever make any attempts to speak with Pearl in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 2, 2013 at 11:20 PM (Answer #1)

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Arthur Dimmesdale is one of the three primary characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and he does have several interactions with Pearl.

Chapter eight is titled "The Elf-child and the Minister," and Dimmesdale helps Hester fight to keep Pearl. While he does not speak directly to her, he does speak on her behalf and, as if she knows it, Pearl approaches him as he stands alone near the curtains. 

Pearl, that wild and flighty little elf, stole softly towards him, and, taking his hand in the grasp of both her own, laid her cheek against it; a caress so tender, and withal so unobtrusive, that her mother, who was looking on, asked herself,--"Is that my Pearl?"...The minister looked round, laid his hand on the child's head, hesitated an instant, and then kissed her brow.

In chapter ten, Hester and Pearl are outside of Dimmesdale's window, but he is clearly frightened by the elfish girl. She speaks about him and Roger Chillingworth, but he does not say anything to her. 

The next time they meet is in chapter twelve, when Dimmesdale is standing on the scaffold as Hester and Pearl walk by late one night. When he hears them, he calls to them and asks them to join him on the scaffold. 

"Come up hither, Hester, thou and little Pearl," said the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. "Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!"  

Pearl and Dimmesdale have a short conversation about whether he will stand with her on the scaffold publicly, but of course he does not agree to do that.

In chapter nineteen, Arthur and Hester are on one side of the brook and Pearl is on the other. Hester has taken off the scarlet letter for the first time, and Pearl throws a tantrum until Hester puts the letter back on. The episode frightens the clergyman and Pearl knows it. Hester finally forces Pearl to approach Dimmesdale, but she makes outrageous faces at him and he cannot speak. Eventually he gives her an awkward kiss on the forehead--which she promptly and capriciously washes off.

Finally, in chapter twenty-three of the novel, Dimmesdale talks to Pearl as a father would talk to a daughter. 

"My little Pearl," said he feebly,--and there was a sweet and gentle smile over his face, as of a spirit sinking into deep repose; nay, now that the burden was removed, it seemed almost as if he would be sportive with the child,--"dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thou wouldst not yonder, in the forest! But now thou wilt?"

Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. 

Of all their interactions, then, only the last one was initiated by Dimmesdale and fully reciprocated by Pearl.

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