As he is dying, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale makes a public admission of his part in the birth of Pearl, his illegitimate daughter. Hester, who has always loved Dimmesdale, remains by his side during this time and does her best to bring him comfort through her presence and love. Pearl, however, has not always been accepting of her father, which is due to her apparent awareness of some degree of dishonesty in him; when Dimmesdale fails to recognize Pearl publicly, she refuses to show him any affection.
When Dimmesdale is lying on the scaffold, he focuses on Pearl.
"My little Pearl," said he, feebly--and there was a sweet and gentle smile over his face, as of a spirit sinking into deep repose; nay, now that the burden was removed, it seemed almost as if he would be sportive with the child--"dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thou wouldst not, yonder, in the forest! But now thou wilt!"
Pearl is deeply affected by Dimmesdale's admission and question. Because he has claimed her as his child, Pearl gives him a gift in return: the kiss he asks for before dying. The little girl's very personality is changed by what Dimmesdale says and does.
Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled.
Dimmesdale's acknowledgment of Pearl softens her heart toward not only him, but everyone, including her mother, Hester Prynne.