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In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mistress Hibbins says which of the...

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cknutson4 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted October 3, 2013 at 11:59 AM via web

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In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mistress Hibbins says which of the following:

a. Dimmesdale is an honorable man.

b. Dimmesdale's soul has been signed and sealed by the devil.

c. Dimmesdale is sick.

d. Dimmesdale and Pearl look alike.

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

Posted October 3, 2013 at 2:07 PM (Answer #1)

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In chapter twenty of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale has been to the forest where he and Hester have made plans to leave New England. As he walks back into town, it is as if he is a new man. His time in the forest and his hope for the future have obviously reinvigorated him. 

Something else is happening in the transformed minister as he walks through town, though. As he passes certain people, he is tempted to do rather devilish things. He barely keeps himself from making "certain blasphemous suggestions" about the communion supper to a venerable deacon of the church. When an equally venerable old widow stops to talk with him about her lost loved ones, he is sorely tempted to make an argument against the "immortality of the human soul." Finally, he sees a young, virginal woman from his church whom he knows has him "enshrined within the stainless sanctity of her heart." He pulls his cape up over his face and walks past her without any acknowledgement, causing her to weep all night, worrying about how she might have offended her beloved minister.

After all that, he meets Mistress Hibbins, in full witch-like garb, and she immediately recognizes something different about the minister. She does not comment on his honorableness like so many others continually do. She does not say he looks sick because, in fact, he looks healthier than he has in a very long time. She makes no reference at all to Pearl, so that leaves answer B. She says:

"So, reverend Sir, you have made a visit into the forest," observed the witch-lady, nodding her high head-dress at him. "The next time, I pray you to allow me only a fair warning, and I shall be proud to bear you company. Without taking overmuch upon myself, my good word will go far towards gaining any strange gentleman a fair reception from yonder potentate you wot of!"

She can see that he has been to the forest, home of the Devil, and asks only that next time he goes he takes her with him--and she offers to put a "good word" in for him with the devil.

This is the final temptation, and Dimmesdale calmly states that he has been to visit a fellow religious man, nothing more. 

"Ha, ha, ha!" cackled the old witch-lady, still nodding her high head-dress at the minister. "Well, well, we must needs talk thus in the daytime! You carry it off like an old hand! But at midnight, and in the forest, we shall have other talk together!"

Clearly she recognizes that Dimmesdale has made some kind of compact with the devil, something Dimmesdale does not see now but will certainly realize for himself very soon.

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