In "The Scarlet Letter", why was Hester reluctant to say who the father of her baby was?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Puritan community, the minister holds an esteemed position. In addition to the respect accorded to his position, the Reverend Dimmesdale is almost deified by the townspeople of Hester's community: they speak of him as "ethereal": One goodwife remarks," People say...that the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should have come upon his congregation." That Dimmesdale, who is also perceived as having a sensitive and philosophical turn of mind, would commit such a grave sin of the flesh, would be incomprehensible to the Puritan community of Hester's.

Therefore, Hester realizes that it would only bring more shame onto her if she confesses. Also, as she is "lady-like" and "proud" (Ch. 2), she refuses to humiliate herself by exposing anyone else. And, most importantly, she loves Dimmesdale in the truest sense of the word: She will protect him fiercely knowing his sensitive nature would be destroyed by the ignominy of exposure. Besides this, Hester takes the blame for the sin, and in her thinking there is no reason for Dimmesdale to suffer. When they meet in the forest in Chapter 17, Hester suggests to Dimmesdale that his good deals have made reparation for him: "Is there no reality in the penitence thus sealed and witnessed by good works?"

Hester's silence assists in the question of secret sin, a theme.

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The Scarlet Letter

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