Hester's effect on dimmesdale and pearls reaction to the ministerWhat is the effect on Dimmesdale? I feel that she causes Dimmesdale to have hope and joy yet fear of her Re: Pearl's reaction to...

Hester's effect on dimmesdale and pearls reaction to the minister

What is the effect on Dimmesdale?

I feel that she causes Dimmesdale to have hope and joy yet fear of her

Re: Pearl's reaction to the minister

I think that Pearl's reaction is significant because it shows the reader that she is a result of Hester's sin and that they shouldn't move to England to escape punishment. It shows that the minister isn't welcome and Pearl believes he doesn't belong because he can not take the punishment that resulted from his sins.

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems you are speaking of the meeting in the forest between Hester and Dimmesdale. In this incident, Dimmesdale experiences a series of overwhelming emotions. When Hester tells him Chillingworth's true identity, Dimmesdale is horrified. He also is angry, since he cannot understand how Hester could have kept Chillingworth's secret at the minister's expense. He also feels overwhelmed by his own guilt because he left her to suffer alone for their mutual sin. He forgives Hester. When she speaks of a new life, he resists the idea, unable to believe that such a possibility exists. As he listens to Hester, however, he warms to vision of their having a life together. He loves her, after all. He leaves the forest filled with new strength and a new sense of life; he feels joy again, a feeling he had believed he was no longer able to experience.

Pearl's reaction to the minister is quite different from her mother's. She rejects him. Pearl understands on some level that the minister has not earned the right to have a relationship with her. He has not claimed her publicly. Pearl will not accept him until he is willing to do that, to demonstrate that his love for her is stronger than his fear and cowardice. Very significantly, in the novel's conclusion when Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold in the light of day with Pearl and Hester, making his confession and claiming them, Pearl kisses his hand and cries the tears of "a human child."

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That Pearl is more symbol than human is apparent from Chapter IV on.  Possessing a

rich and luxuriant beauty,...eyes of intensity both of depth and glow..perfect shape,... vigor, natural dexterity,.... a native grace.

Pearl is intelligent, imaginative, inquisitive, determined, and, at times, obstinate.  She is a perplexing mixture of strong moods, given to uncontrolled laughter at one moment and sullen silence the next.  Her exceptional mind has never been molded because of her unusual environment.  Yet, there is something preternatural about her, indicating that Hawthorne intends for her to be a symbol, a symbol of the passion that has accompanied the sin of Dimmesdale and Hester.  One critic writes,

Above all, the warfare of Hester's spirit, at that epoch, was perpetuated in Pearl.

So, in Chapter XVIII, the living symbol of Hester's sin and passion forces her mother to reclaim the scarlet A.  She washes away Dimmesdale's kiss because he has not played a part in the affair, as far as Pearl knows. (This action is in accord with your analysis.)  When Dimmesdale later assumes his role of responsibility for his sin, Pearl then acknowleges him with a kiss of her own.



Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hester's effect on Arthur is dramatic.  He was walking though the forest like a bent old man; he was even walking with a cane.  Once he's able to be himself with Hester, he undergoes a dramatic transformation (as does Hester, though that's not what you asked).  It doesn't happen right away, as he must first deal with the news about Roger which Hester has sought him out to give.  Once he has recovered himself and Hester has promised him he won't be alone, he is young and almost care-free again.  When Pearl arrives on the scene, though, he returns to being nervous and jittery--and rightly so, given the tantrum Pearl throws at the brook.

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The Scarlet Letter

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