What is suspicious about Dimmesdale’s position in his debate with Chillingsworth about sin?
He is defending his own side without anyone realizing it.
How do the black flowers initiate a discussion on hidden sins?
Chillingsworth says they grew out of the heart of a dead man who had taken a hideous secret with him to his grave.
How does Dimmesdale’s rationale for not confessing a hidden sin support the doctrine of salvation by works rather than salvation by faith?
Dimmesdale feels that by not confessing his sins and by continuing to do his work, he will earn his salvation. If he confesses, he will not be able to be a preacher.
What does Chillingsworth do while Dimmesdale sleeps, and what does his action show us?
He pushes aside Dimmesdale’s robes, revealing something on his chest, which causes Dimmesdale to shudder in his sleep. This shows us (and Chillingsworth) his true guilt.
What do you suppose is the specific secret that Chillingsworth discovers?
Chillingsworth has discovered something on Dimmesdale’s chest that makes him realize that Dimmesdale is the father of baby Pearl.
Explain the statement, “He (Chillingsworth) became, thenceforth, not a spectator only, but a chief actor, in the poor minister’s interior world.”
Once Chillingsworth discovers that Dimmesdale is the father, he begins to torment him. Dimmesdale does not realize that Chillingsworth is the husband of Hester, but still feels like he is being haunted by Chillingsworth.
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What is ironic about Dimmesdale’s incredible success as a minister?
On the inside, he is tormenting himself for the public sins which he condemns. This is making him appear sicker, and the people think he is a martyr and is just getting closer with God.
Why are Dimmesdale’s public assertions of guilt ironic?
The more he asserts his guilt, the more holy he appears to the public.
Explain the ways that Dimmesdale tortures himself.
He tortures himself physically: scourges himself with a whip, fasts, and hold extended vigils in which he stays awake through the night.
Comparing Dimmesdale’s current struggle with his sin with Hawthorne’s earlier treatment of Hester and her sin, what is Hawthorne suggesting about the effects of sin?
Hester has to publicly stand on the scaffold for her sin, while Dimmesdale does it as a way of furthering his inner torment. When sin is kept as a secret, it poisons the soul and makes Dimmesdale do things that are publicly occuring to Hester.
What is ironic about Hawthorne’s portrayal of the Puritan society, in terms of this developing theme?
Hawthorne portrays the Puritans as thinking they had a perfect society, yet they have a prison, witch, adultry, revengeful doctor, child out of wedlock, and a town full of hypocrites.
How is the episode of Dimmesdale’s midnight vigil on the scaffold structurally significant?
Even though it is not a public confession, he is finally confessing to himself which is a step toward self-forgiveness.
What is the significance of Pearl’s challenge to Dimmesdale?
This makes is clear that Pearl knows there is a connection between her and Dimmesdale and Dimmesdale acknowledges the connection. It also shows us how weak Dimmesdale is since he won’t stand up with Hester and Pearl in the daylight.
What is the significance of the meteor event?
It is an example of cosmic irony. Dimmesdale sees the meteoric A as confirmation that he should also wear a mark of shame while the rest of the town thinks it stands for Angel and marks Governor Winthrop’s entry into Heaven.
How does Dimmesdale feel ashe holds Pearl’s hand?
He is filled with a new energy as all their hands connect. He feels life pouring into him once more.
Why does Pearl pull away from Dimmesdale?
She doesn’t yet trust him since he won’t stand on the scaffold with them during the day.
What effect does Dimmesdale’s vigil have on his career?
He is more successful as a preacher. They find his glove on the scaffold and they think its just the devil plotting against him.