The Scarlet Letter

How does Pearl react to Dimsdale? Why?

Scarlet Letter Chapter 19 (XIX) The child at the brookside

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Hester watches as Pearl walks up to the stream and stops on the other side, still standing in a ray of sunlight. Dimmesdale is anxious that Pearl should cross the stream, and he asks Hester to make her hurry. Pearl starts screaming and convulsing and points to Hester's chest, where the scarlet letter had been removed. Hester finally has to get up and cross the stream, reattach the letter, and put her hair back under her hat.

Hester then drags Pearl up to where Dimmesdale is sitting. Pearl again asks if the minister will always keep his hand over his heart and if he will walk into town with them. Dimmesdale gives her a kiss on the forehead, but Pearl runs away and washes the kiss off in the stream. Pearl, as Hawthorne pointed out, is the “moral blossom” at the center of the story. She seems to be the intermediary, in a sense, between the town's values and Hester and Dimmesdale's passion for each other. Indeed, she is at once the product of their lust and the punisher of it, for she demands that Dimmesdale take responsibility for it. Pearl is not content for her father to embrace her in the woods and return to his town as the revered minister. Instead, she wants to be held out on the scaffold as his child and wants to celebrate the letter on his chest as much as she loves the one on her mother’s. She is a child of two scarlet letters, but Dimmesdale has not revealed his, and her mother comes dangerously close to disposing of hers. Pearl, as the “moral blossom,” will not have it. Until her parents have brought her out of shame, she will not set them free.