The Scarlet Letter


Chapter 19 to Chapter 24

Chapter Nineteen

Pearl symbolizes nature, so the reader may understand that Pearl’s reaction to the lovers might foreshadow their likelihood of success for the future. Dimmesdale is concerned that Pearl will respond negatively to him, not just because of their personal history, but also because he simply is not good with children. He also admits to having been reserved about Pearl, out of fear that people would be able to see his features in her. Interestingly enough, despite her love for Dimmesdale, Hester seems to reject that idea, having never seen Pearl as a representation of Dimmesdale, but instead as something purely her own and purely beautiful.

Despite Hester’s assertions that Pearl will embrace Dimmesdale, Pearl approaches the couple very cautiously. When she sees that her mother is missing her scarlet letter, Pearl has a tantrum. Dimmesdale begs Hester to stop the tantrum. Hester puts the scarlet letter back on her dress and covers her hair with the cap. Once she has done so, Pearl stops her tantrum and comes to her. Pearl also kisses the scarlet letter, which is powerful foreshadowing that Hester and Dimmesdale will not be able to escape society’s judgment.

Pearl acts far beyond her years in this chapter. Rather than simply accepting Dimmesdale as her loving father, Pearl wants Dimmesdale to acknowledge her publicly. Hester seeks to tell her that this will occur in the future, but Dimmesdale makes no such promise. He does show affection to Pearl, kissing her forehead. However, Pearl does not seem to need or want his affection; she gets water from the brook and washes off the kiss. She also removes herself from the adults. The reader is left with an ominous feeling that the family reunion will be short-lived.

Chapter Twenty

Although they have made plans to live together publicly, Dimmesdale is not ready to acknowledge his family. Instead, he leaves the forest before Hester and Pearl. He has been transported by the moment, and almost thinks it was a dream. When he looks...

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