What is Pearl's effect on Dimmesdale in "The Scarlet Letter"? Does she play a part in his decision to confess? Why or why not?
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I agree with the previous answer but would also add that Pearl functions as a symbol in the novel. She is the one that repeatedly sets the adult world in motion through her presence. Pearl illuminates the rigid boundaries of the Puritan community and helps the reader question their validity. One of the moments where Pearl sets things in motion is Dimmesdale's decision to confess.
In many ways, Pearl is responsible for contributing to the guilt that Dimmesdale feels, which in turn is responsible for his ultimate confession. Whenever Pearl and Dimmesdale are in contact with one another, she displays an inherent knowledge of his identity. This is from their first close meeting, where Pearl clearly recognizes something in Dimmesdale, and he responds to her with a fatherly tenderness:
Pearl, ...stole softly towards him, and, taking his hand in the grasp of both her own, laid her cheek against it; ... The minister looked round, laid his hand on the child's head, hesitated an instant, and then kissed her brow.
If he can be so tender, musn't he feel guilty about his actions and how he has helped to make Pearl and Hester outcasts in the community? When Dimmesdale stands upone the scaffold, he discusses his confession with Pearl - not with Hester. It is Pearl who challenges him.
“But wilt thou promise,” asked Pearl, “to take my hand, and mother's hand, to-morrow noontide?”
“Not then, Pearl,” said the minister, “but another time!”
“And what other time?” persisted the child.
“At the great judgment day!” whispered the minister.
And, finally of course, it is Pearl who he last turns to before dying, asking her forgiveness before he can be at peace:
Dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thou wouldst not yonder, in the forest! But now thou wilt?”
Dimmesdale clearly is driven to confess by his sense of obligation to Pearl.
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