In "The Scarlet Letter," chapters 11 and 12, what does Pearl ask Reverend Dimmesdale?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 12, Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold because his guilt has begun to overwhelm him and he hopes that there might be "a moment's peace" to be found there, in his proper place: the place of public shame, the "guilty platform." He sees a few others in the darkness, but none see him until he meets with Pearl and Hester. Dimmesdale asks them to come up and stand with him on the scaffold, and, holding hands, the "three formed an electric chain." However, when Pearl asks Dimmesdale, "Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?" he says that he will not. He refuses this child, his own child, the opportunity to know him and for the community to know that he is her father, because he is too afraid. She tries to pull away from him, appearing to somehow recognize his hypocrisy, but he will not let her go. She asks again, "But wilt thou promise . . . to take my hand, and mother's hand, to-morrow noontide?" Again, he refuses her, telling her he will only stand with them "At the great judgment day." In other words, not until Dimmesdale dies does he intend to acknowledge Pearl for his own. This can hardly comfort the child.

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Mike Rosenbaum eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Pearl asks Dimmesdale if he will stand upon the scaffold during the day with her mother and herself.  To do so would be for Dimmesdale to confess.  It is Pearl throughout the novel that goads Dimmesdale into revealing his sin, and it is to her at the end that he turns when he finally does, looking for forgiveness.  At this point, however, Dimmesdale shrinks from the question.

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