How are Hester, Dimmesdale, Pearl, and Chillingworth redeemed by the end of the novel ?The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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With Dimmesdale's confession in the third scaffold scene of The Scarlet Letter, the spiritual triangle is completed for Hester, Pearl, and the minister, while the devilish Roger Chillingworth, who attempts to stop Dimmesdale, is defeated.  Rather than dying for others' sins as Christ did, Dimmesdale dies for his; however, in so doing, like a Christ, he does ask God's forgiveness for Chillingworth's sin ["forgive them Father....], and he allows Pearl to become fully human as she kisses his lips, then weeps in true human compassion. 

This kiss of Pearl is highly symbolic, for hitherto Pearl has washed away Dimmesdale's kiss at the brook because the minister "was not true," she now returns her father's kiss, symbolizing her acceptance and forgiveness.  Moreover, this action of Pearl transforms her from a "sprite" and "imp" into a human being who sheds tears for the first time in the narrative.  That she is no longer a symbol of Hester's and Dimmesdale's sin is evinced in Hawthorne's narration, "A spell was broken."

For her sin of adultery, Hester has already been redeemed by her full admission of the sin (she embroiders a brillant A and performs good deads). Still, Hester's sin of having allowed Roger Chillingworth to "violate the sanctity of the human heart"  has, at last, been revealed so that she, too, can "be true" as Hawthorne urges in his statement of theme in the Conclusion.  And, so, she is finally truly redeemed.

After the final scaffold scene, Chillingworth

...withered up, shrivelled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun. 

If Chillingworth is redeemed at all, it is in finding some humanity in himself by bequeathing his property, both in England and in Massachusetts, to Pearl. Thus, his hatred is converted to love, expelling his sin, just as sin is expelled in Dimmesdale, Hester, and Pearl as the incarnation of her parents' sin.

 

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