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At the beginning of the novel, the reader is given foreshadowing about Arthur Dimmesdale’s role in what has happened to Hester. The main place we can see this is in Chapter 3, when Dimmesdale is asked to speak to Hester while she stands on the scaffold in front of the entire town. Reverend Wilson tells Hester that he has asked Dimmesdale to speak with her about revealing the name of her fellow-sinner. Wilson says, “But he opposes to me (with a young man’s over-softness…) that it were wronging the very nature of woman to force her to lay open her heart’s secret in such broad daylight…” The reader receives the first hints about Dimmesdale. As a pastor, why is he “over-soft” about this sin? Why does he oppose the formidable Reverend Wilson on this matter? Isn’t he as interested as Wilson in knowing who Pearl’s father is?
When he actually speaks to Hester, he also gives the reader an indication of what is to come. “Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life” (Chapter 3). This foreshadows Dimmesdale’s eventual confession at the end of the novel, as well as the gesture he continually makes of putting his hand over his heart.
After Dimmesdale speaks, we see further foreshadowing in the form of baby Pearl’s reaction. “Even the poor baby, at Hester’s bosom, was affected by the same influence; for it directed its hitherto vacant gaze towards Mr. Dimmesdale, and held up its little arms, with a half-pleased, half-plaintive murmur” (Chapter 3). This foreshadows Pearl’s desire, later in the novel, to be recognized by her father. Finally, when Hester refuses to speak, Dimmesdale’s reaction foreshadows to the reader that he has more of a stake in her answer than he might pretend. “She will not speak!” murmured Mr. Dimmesdale…with a long respiration. “Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak!” (Chapter 3). These early clues help the reader to recognize Hester and Dimmesdale’s relationship when it is presented again later in the novel.
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