How does Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale intercede on behalf of Hester in chapters 6-11?

Arthur Dimmesdale, a Puritan clergyman, is the main character of The Scarlet Letter. Reverend Dimmesdale's life is marked by turmoil and guilt caused by his affair with Hester Prynne. This affair has left the reverend physically ill and emotionally distraught. In his struggle to find peace, Dimmesdale is tormented by Hester Prynne's plight and realizes he holds power to free her from her sentence as a sinner.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 3, when Hester is on the scaffold serving her public punishment, Rev. Dimmesdale offers Hester a chance to share the name of her lover as a means of saving her own soul and somehow diminishing her guilt and punishment.  He knows, however, that her love is strong and she...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In chapter 3, when Hester is on the scaffold serving her public punishment, Rev. Dimmesdale offers Hester a chance to share the name of her lover as a means of saving her own soul and somehow diminishing her guilt and punishment.  He knows, however, that her love is strong and she would never betray him--especially since the usual punishment for the crime of adultery was death.  He could have interceded for her then she neither asked nor wanted him to do so.

The two meet again in chapter 8 at the Governor's mansion, and now she is forced to ask for his intervention and help.  Hester has gone to deliver a pair of embroidered gloves, but her real mission was to ensure that she would not lose her child.  There she meets Governor Bellingham, the Rev. John Wilson, Roger Chillingworth, and the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale.

Rev. Wilson asks Pearl a few questions in an effort to determine whether or not Pearl has been appropriately taught about the things of God by her mother, a "sinner."  The young girl gives foolish answers, causing the men to question Hester's ability to be a godly parent to this young soul.  When several of them agree that perhaps Hester is not a fit mother for Pearl, Hester makes an appeal directly to Dimmesdale.  "Speak thou for me!  Thou knowest--for thou hast sympathies which these men lack--thou knowest what is in my heart....  Look thou to it!  I will not lose the child!  Look to it!"

A nervous and emaciated Dimmesdale is stricken by her passion, as well as his own guilt, and steps forward to plead her case to the men who have the power (and apparently the intent) to remove Pearl from her mother.  Despite his weakened condition, he is an eloquent speaker and his argument is simple:  God gave this child to Hester as both a daily reminder of her past sin and a hope for her future redemption. "To remind her, at every moment, of her fall but yet to teach her... that, if she bring the child to heaven, the child will also bring her parents...."

The argument, as well as the passion with which it is delivered, is a compelling one.  Without hesitation, Governor Bellingham agrees that Pearl should remain with her mother.  As a direct result of Arthur Dimmesdale's intercession (help), Hester is allowed to keep her child, the only thing she has in this world to love and cherish as her own.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Hester is in danger of losing custody of Pearl, she goes to Governor Bellingham's to plead to keep Pearl. Hester tells the governor that she has learned from her mistake of adultery. The governor quizzes Pearl on her knowledge of religion, asking her where she came from. The correct answer is "God," but Pearl, the wild creature of nature, says she was plucked from a rose bush. The magistrates are horrified and want to immediately place Pearl in other hands.

Hester, desperate, and knowing Dimmesdale is Pearl's father, turns to him and begs him to intercede. He does so, speaking eloquently about Pearl as a blessing to Hester, her "only blessing." Dimmesdale goes on to say that Hester understands that Pearl is a miracle and argues that Pearl was sent by God to lead Hester to redemption. He speaks so movingly that the mother and child are not separated.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 8, when Hester stands to lose Pearl, she looks to Dimmesdale to intervene on her behalf and convince the Governor that Pearl should remain with her.  Dimmesdale does just this. He argues that Pearl may serve to save Hester's soul, which is otherwise lost to Satan.

As far as the other chapters, Dimmesdale doesn't really help Hester directly.  He does try to publicly state his sin, but he only ends up saying that he is a sinner and a liar.  During these chapters, he does not confess his part in the adultery, but his own letter A does become embedded on his chest.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Chapter 8, Governor Bellingham and the authorities interview Pearl to see if she is being raised properly. They are considering removing Pearl from Hester's care in order to save Pearl's soul. Dimmesdale intervenes with the authorities after Hester demands that he help. He posits that if Hester loses Pearl, then Hester's soul might be lost, so Pearl should be left with Hester to save Hester's soul. A compromise is reached whereby Hester keeps Pearl, but Pearl is supervised at church.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team