In "The Scarlet Letter," what is Pearl’s effect on Dimmesdale?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pearl's effect on Dimmesdale is associated with Dimmesdale's perception of his sin. As an unconfessed adulterer, Dimmesdale loathes himself and tries to punish himself by all night prayer vigils and self-mutilation. When he sees Pearl, he is reminded of his sin. Thus, he seems to have very little contact with his daughter. In fact, during the forest scene, it is Hester who says she wants Dimmesdale to "know Pearl." But Pearl is so overwhelmed at seeing her mother without the scarlet letter, that she has a temper tantrum. When Dimmesdale tries to kiss her, she washes off his kiss. Dimmesdale instructs Hester to put the scarlet letter back and let Pearl be. However, earlier in the novel, Pearl seems to sense a connection with Dimmesdale and asks him if he will stand on the scaffold with her and her mother in the daytime. Dimmesdale's response is that he will gladly stand with her "on judgement day"--or at the end of time. Thus, it seems that no matter how much he would like to know his daughter, the effects of sin and hiding that sin are more important to him.

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The Scarlet Letter

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