Notes on The Scarlet Letter Themes

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The Scarlet Letter Topic Tracking: Truth

The observers (as opposed to the direct participants) in the story are ironically the ones closest to understanding the link between a person's sin and their destiny. These observers often notice the hidden truths.

Truth 1: Infant Pearl reaches her arms towards Dimmesdale at the end of his speech, in which he implored Hester to name the man who made her pregnant.

Truth 2: Pearl says that she did not come from the Heavenly Father.

Truth 3: When asked who she is, Pearl says she is her mother's child. This is especially significant because it demonstrates how much responsibility Hester has taken on, and how completely she has isolated both she and her daughter from Arthur Dimmesdale. Pearl sees herself as being entirely a product of her mother, and therefore is a lesson only for her mother.

Truth 4: Pearl approaches Dimmesdale, after he argues against taking her from her mother, and presses his hand against her cheek. Time and time again, Pearl seeks out Dimmesdale's affection, trying to pull him into admitting his fatherhood.

Truth 5: Pearl notices Chillingworth and Dimmesdale staring at her and her mother from a high window. She tells her mother that Chillingworth is a "Black Man...[who] hath got hold of the minister already," and that she must look away to protect herself.

Truth 6: Mistress Hibbens encourages Dimmesdale to meet her in the forest one night so that Dimmesdale can meet the Black Man, like she says he is trying to do. Mistress Hibbens recognizes that Dimmesdale is doing battle with the devil - in the form of the sin he has committed.

Truth 7: When thinking about Dimmesdale's opposite public and private reactions to her and Hester, Pearl calls Dimmesdale "a strange, sad man."

Truth 8: Mistress Hibbens notices Dimmesdale's changed appearance before the Election Sermon and comments on how different he looked - almost like a different man - when Hester and he met secretly in the forest.

Truth 9: Dimmesdale's speech, heard from far away, sounds like a shriek.

Truth 10: Pearl cries over Dimmesdale as he lies dying on the scaffold, and finishes her time as a bringer of torment.

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