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The Scarlet Letter: When Dimmesdale confesses his sins and Pearl kisses him and begins...

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beautifulsuns... | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted November 2, 2012 at 10:27 PM via web

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The Scarlet Letter: When Dimmesdale confesses his sins and Pearl kisses him and begins to cry, what are the emotions that she feels?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 3, 2012 at 2:33 PM (Answer #1)

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In chapter XIX of The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne cleverly juxtaposes the feelings of the three main players in the chapter, which are Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale; the sadly dysfunctional family whose fate is dependent entirely on the choices of a weak man, and a strong, but misunderstood woman.

In this chapter, titled "The Child at the Brook-side", Hester and Dimmesdale are bound to meet and speak from the heart right in the middle of the forest, hiding away from the villagers. We find that it is Hester who triggers the strange reactions that come upon Pearl. We also learn, upon doing a closer reading, that this seems to be the norm between the woman and her child. This is because Hester shows a clear quality of denial when creating expectations of Dimmesdale. In her mind, Hester truly believes that Dimmesdale loves both her and Pearl, and that he is willing to follow her plans to run away from the village and start a family again together:

..in days to come he will walk hand in hand with us. We will have a home and fireside of our own; and thou shalt sit upon his knee; and he will teach thee many things, and love thee dearly. Thou wilt love him; wilt thou not?

These words, to Pearl, start to sound like imaginary musings. This makes Pearl immediately become guarded against the character of the minister. In her wise and witty nature, Pearl wonders why her mother should be so wrapped around a man who is obviously a weakling in comparison; moreover, Dimmesdale has never shown any inkling of love or devotion to neither Pearl, or her mother: why should Pearl be forced to nearly worship and respect a man who is not corresponding likewise?

Further on, we see Dimmesdale and Hester finally having their conversation. The narrative refers to Dimmesdale as Pearl's  potentially "dangerous rival", and describes how her entire demeanour showed high disregard and dislike toward the minister. When the minister foolishly thinks that a kiss would serve as a "talisman" to charm the little girl, what he encounters is that she is disgusted and angered by it to the point of running to the brook-side to wash off the kiss. This is where everything comes together. Those previous emotions discussed earlier, combined with the ultimate show of hypocrisy (in Pearl's eyes) by Dimmesdale made her break out in one of her worse demonstrations of anger and "elfishness" which, as a matter of fact, did not cause pain in Dimmesdale, but high embarrassment. 

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