In The Scarlet Letter, when Dimmesdale does actually admit his sinfulness to his congregation, how do his church members react?

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When the final revelation comes that the reader has known for quite a while, it is nothing short of miraculous. The exposure of Dimmesdale's own, guilt-wracked Scarlet Letter on his breast and the revelation of his sin is something that strikes those who witness his very public declaration with fear and wonder. Note how the text talks of how people responded:

The multitude, silent till then, broke out in a strange, deep voice of awe and wonder, which could not as yet find utterance, save in this murmur that rolled so heavily after the departed spirit.

The final concluding chapter to this tale explores some of the meanings that attached themselves to the minister's startling declaration. The one that seemed to be accepted by most of his congregation is that Dimmesdale, conscious of his position as pastor until the last, used his death as a kind of parable to teach them all:

...the mighty and wonderful lesson that, in the view of Infinite Purity, we are all sinners alike.

This is something that only serves to still increase the respect and awe with which Dimmesdale was held and thought of by his congregation. It is perhaps ironic that Dimmesdale's death that was due at least in part to his fear of what would happen if he did confess only served to increase his standing still further amongst his congregation.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

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