Set Upon the Heart - The Scarlet Letter (14-21)

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"Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book the Black Man set his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside on his bosom, as thou dost, mother?"

Here Pearl asks the questions that everyone else was thinking. Why doesn't the minister wear his mark on the outside and bear his sin to the world? For that matter, does he even have a true mark? And how would Pearl know about his self-inflicted torture? Or is she speaking figuratively about the mark of the, "Black Man"?

All of these questions can be raised by a few simple sentences of Pearl's speech. It seems as if Hawthorne included her speaking in the story to voice what the readers are asking themselves. Almost the whole story I was wondering why Dimmesdale did not just confess to being the father of Hester's child. Then all of his suffering would have been over and he would have been able to come to terms with his guilt.

Also, was it really Satan that was making the minister suffer? I don't believe that for one minute, because he minister was making himself suffer. He was not concerned with the actual sin, but with the fear that the public might find out what he had done. This made Chillingworth's task much easier because he could pay on the minister's guilt. Dimmesdale was making his situation much worse by refusing to own up to his own mistake.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL266/2009/09/hawthorne_the_s_2/

3 Comments

Jennifer Prex said:

I agree with you that it seemed more like Dimmesdale was making himself suffer, for the most part, but Chillingworth certainly added onto it. As for why Dimmesdale didn't just reveal his secret to everyone to just be done with it and be able to let go of his guilt, I think at least part of it has to be because he was such a public figure--more specifically, he was a church minister. He would lose everything if he told.

Jeremy Barrick said:

I do not feel that it was Satan either. I think with the word 'black' we all come to the assumption that the devil is involved. I feel that the word 'black' is a symbol for evil. With guilt being a negative word it is often times associated with other words such as evil, sin, and suffer.

Dave said:

I definately agree that Dimmesdale is the source of his own suffering. Masochist isn't the right word, but its the first one that comes to mind...Anyway, the use of Pearl to say important points in a seemingly innocent way, is a literary tactic that like all other writing, is reminiscent of Shakespeare. Pearl, whose wisdom is disguised by the fact that she is a child, seems to operate in much the same way as the "wise fool," in many of Shakespeare's plays. While he points things out to the audience, the characters dismiss it, cause he's the fool. Or in this case, as small child.

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