What does Pearl want from Dimmesdale in chapters 17–21? How does Dimmesdale interact with people he meets on his walk back to town?

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Pearl questions Dimmesdale's love for Hester and her by asking if he loves them enough to walk back to town with them hand in hand. In this allegorical novel, Pearl functions as the symbol of conscience. For both Hester and Dimmesdale, Pearl is the tangible, visible reminder of both their love and their sin. They are only able to be open and honest with each other in the forest, away from civilized society and its rules and laws that forbid their love and censure Hester and Pearl.

When Dimmesdale takes his leave and returns to town, he resolves to confess his sin in his Election Day sermon three days hence. He encounters a church official, an old woman, and a young female admirer. He behaves as he always does, but inside he is beset with temptation to say shocking things to these parishioners. He ponders whether these temptations are due to his making a "pact with the devil" in the forest. Mistress Hibbins, the local witch, greets him with congratulations on meeting the devil in the forest. Dimmesdale is convinced that his soul is lost.

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