In The Scarlet Letter, what is ironic about Dimmesdale's reaction to Hester's refusal to name the father of her child?  

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If you are in the beginning of the book, about chapter 3, this scene occurs with great irony. First of all, we know Dimmesdale to be a Reverend. Thus, he has a moral duty and obligation to the Puritan society to ensure that sin goes noticed. This effort of public mockery when great sin occurs was regular for Puritans and they believe it helped deter others from committing like crimes. What actually happens is that he moves through the ceremony of public mockery very quickly and the audience almost feels that he is letting her off the hook. Her punishment for the crime is not severe enough for them. Dimmsdale is acting more like a modern day minister who allows forgiveness (it is indeed a premise of the bible, but Puritans regularly overlooked it). It would have been ironic for a minister of that day and age to actually act that way.

What is more ironic is the identity of the father. Wait til you find that one out. There's a reason she's keeping such a big secret.

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