Why did Dimmesdale confess in public?  

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missmazz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dimmesdale confesses in public because of his cowardice and unwillingness to confess to his sin with Hester Prynne and being Pearl's father, Dimmesdale is consumed with guilt. He continually fights an inner battle between telling the truth and saving his reputation as a spiritual leader within the town. He knows that any real man worth his salt would not allow Hester to take the town's ridicule and punishment, yet he does because of his fear of the townspeople and their derision. He keeps his secret hidden for years and is so wracked with guilt that he carves an "A" on his own chest to signify his adulterous act. Although he seeks some solace in the plan he and Hester have devised to escape the town, when it falls apart, he appears to realize that the only real freedom he will experience must come from confession. Therefore, to counter his secrecy concerning his sin, Dimmesdale finally does what he considers the most honorable thing - telling everyone that he was Pearl's father. He decides that on the most important day of the year, Election Day, he would expose his "crime," leading people to come to whatever conclusions they will and finding his ultimate deliverance from both his guilt and from his fear of men.

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The Scarlet Letter

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