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What kind of love did Hester and Dimmesdale have and what prevents them from acting on it?

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xothunderxo | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 24, 2008 at 6:48 PM via web

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What kind of love did Hester and Dimmesdale have and what prevents them from acting on it?

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katemschultz | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted August 24, 2008 at 6:55 PM (Answer #2)

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Hester and Dimmesdale's love was sinful--she was a married woman and he was a celibate clergy member. However, even though it was a sin, it was a sin driven by love, and not by hate (as the majority of sins can be.) It is also presented as a more uplifting, more physical and truer love (in the end of the book) that the "love" or relationship that was presented between Hester and Chillingworth.

First of all, the fact that Dimmesdale is a high figure in the church prevents them from acting upon it publicly. All of the faith the parishioners have in DImmesdale would be gone. He understands he has a responsibility to lead these people. Unfortunately, they would rather be led by man who has a secret sin than a man who is honest about his sins, as he preaches for them to be.

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katemschultz | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted August 24, 2008 at 8:06 PM (Answer #4)

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I think the post re: Hester and Dimmesdale and him loving his books more is incorrect and referring to Hester and Chillingworth.

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 25, 2008 at 5:05 PM (Answer #5)

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If the topic is Hester and Dimmesdale, I would have to say that it was Hester who showed true love for the man, while he was a coward, plain and simple.  I cannot stand the fact that he let her be punished and would not stand up with her.  That shows, in my opinion, that he basically got what he wanted, but that ultimately, his reputation was more important to him than either Hester or their child, Pearl.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 25, 2008 at 10:08 PM (Answer #6)

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Why would you suspect that they didn't love each other?  After all, we have no idea how long their relationship went on, if Pearl was the result of one encounter or an ongoing one, or much else about it.  (I do not see any evidence that he was obsessed with her.)  Hester's love was not burdened with a sense of "wrong" about what they did; Dimmesdale's was torpedoed by his absolute need to have the support of his religion and the definition of himself that it imposed upon him.  

In the world we live in, it's easy to get up and say that you have fathered a child outside of marriage; in their society, it was the end of his useful life as a minister.  I suspect that there are people who think this is the way it should be, but Hester didn't.  She could have had him as a husband/father, but she elected not to "out" him.  I think it would have been better for him to own up to his actions, but he paid a serious price for that mistake.  

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ptobey | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted August 26, 2008 at 12:17 PM (Answer #7)

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Why would you suspect that they didn't love each other?  After all, we have no idea how long their relationship went on, if Pearl was the result of one encounter or an ongoing one, or much else about it.  (I do not see any evidence that he was obsessed with her.)  Hester's love was not burdened with a sense of "wrong" about what they did; Dimmesdale's was torpedoed by his absolute need to have the support of his religion and the definition of himself that it imposed upon him.  

In the world we live in, it's easy to get up and say that you have fathered a child outside of marriage; in their society, it was the end of his useful life as a minister.  I suspect that there are people who think this is the way it should be, but Hester didn't.  She could have had him as a husband/father, but she elected not to "out" him.  I think it would have been better for him to own up to his actions, but he paid a serious price for that mistake.  

Interesting, but it is not in his belief system to own up to his actions. During his bandying conversation regarding open confession with Chillingworth in chapter 10, Dimmesdale says that it is only to God that one must reveal his/her sins and that to do otherwise is simply to satisfy iltellectual satsifaction and not spiritual. Further, I don't think Dimmesdale's allowing others to know of his sin would change the way he sees himself, feels about himself, or the way he would punish himself. Even if others knew what he has done, he would still find difficulty in forgiving himself because ultimately, unlike Hester and Ann Hutchinson, Dimmesdale is more concerned with religion than spirituality.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 26, 2008 at 9:40 PM (Answer #8)

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For ptobey:  the only thing his "coming out" would have done would have been to provide Hester with a husband and Pearl with a father ... he may never have forgiven himself, but at least he might have had a life.

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ptobey | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted August 27, 2008 at 8:16 AM (Answer #9)

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For ptobey:  the only thing his "coming out" would have done would have been to provide Hester with a husband and Pearl with a father ... he may never have forgiven himself, but at least he might have had a life.

I'm not sure he would have allowed himself a life; he's so hard on himself, and I think, more interested in his religion than what would have been his family...

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 27, 2008 at 9:30 AM (Answer #10)

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Hester had been alone for a very long time.  Her husband was thought to be dead, since in his absence of two years, she had heard nothing from him.  The marriage was not based on love.  In his absence, Hester found a romantic love with Arthur.  I am NOT condoning her actions, but it is understandable that she would not have acted on any romantic attraction had she known her husband was still alive and coming to live with her.  So, from the terms of the book, yes, their love was sinful.  However, their love is also based on mutual respect and attraction for one another...it can be seen as beautiful.  Adultery is wrong, and that is the issue at hand in this novel. 

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted August 27, 2008 at 10:51 AM (Answer #11)

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Amy, I'm not so sure that their love was "sinful" for both of them, at least on the personal level.  I have trouble getting past the "what we did had a consecration of its own" that Hester expressed to Arthur in Chapter 17.

What do you make of it?

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Michael Foster | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 31, 2008 at 3:39 PM (Answer #12)

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Since Hester believed that Chillingworth was dead, it might qualify more as fornication than adultery (though evidently then, as now, there was a time limit after which a person is considered legally dead).  But Dimmesdale was no more appropriate for her than was Chillingworth.  The first was physical, that latter social or material.  did she really love either one?  Definitely not Chillingworth, and it is really doubtful that she felt an abiding love for Dimmesdale.  He was too weak, and she was too strong.  Which leads to the question, who seduced whom? 

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 2, 2008 at 4:39 PM (Answer #13)

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Although we are not privy to their initial relationship, I believe that Hester's love for Dimmesdale was an honest one, born out of her respect for this leader of the community.  Dimmesdale is obviously a sensitive  man, and in comparison to Chillingworth, Hester would have found that attractive.  However, I don't think Dimmesdale loved anyone but himself.  The scene in the forest, where he berates Hester for contributing to his current state, proves his lack of feeling for her.

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thuydung | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 22, 2009 at 5:10 AM (Answer #14)

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before giving the final conclusion of whether or not both Hester and Dim have been in sin, we ourselves should take a look of what a sin is?

commiting a sin must be the action of breaking the rules commonly accepted by a community and destroying the moral principles of ourselves. thus, in the work of Scarlet letter, Hester has breaken the hard belief of Puritants, which means that she has be in the sin, but taking a look to another side of the matter, she has been bravely fight for her "true love" that noone else of her period could do. also, that reveals that Hester was not a liar to her soul, not a liar to the God. This admirable woman has done what she should do.

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melissa1106 | Student, Grade 11 | Salutatorian

Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:32 PM (Answer #15)

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Hester and Dimmesdale had a love that was forbidden and in the eyes of the town, sinful. They could not act on it because he was a high church figure. In puritan beliefs it was deemed one of the highest offenses to be with someone from the church. Hester hides her sercet about Dimesdale because she knows they will both be shunned for their actions.

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