Discussion 10-12

question

What is suspicious about Dimmesdale’s position in his debate with Chillingsworth about sin?
answer

He is defending his own side without anyone realizing it.
question

How do the black flowers initiate a discussion on hidden sins?
answer

Chillingsworth says they grew out of the heart of a dead man who had taken a hideous secret with him to his grave.
question

How does Dimmesdale’s rationale for not confessing a hidden sin support the doctrine of salvation by works rather than salvation by faith?
answer

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.
question

What does Chillingsworth do while Dimmesdale sleeps, and what does his action show us?
answer

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.
question

What do you suppose is the specific secret that Chillingsworth discovers?
answer

Chillingsworth has discovered something on Dimmesdale’s chest that makes him realize that Dimmesdale is the father of baby Pearl.
question

Explain the statement, \”He (Chillingsworth) became, thenceforth, not a spectator only, but a chief actor, in the poor minister’s interior world.\”
answer

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.
question

What is ironic about Dimmesdale’s incredible success as a minister?
answer

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.
question

Why are Dimmesdale’s public assertions of guilt ironic?
answer

The more he asserts his guilt, the more holy he appears to the public.
question

Explain the ways that Dimmesdale tortures himself.
answer

He tortures himself physically: scourges himself with a whip, fasts, and hold extended vigils in which he stays awake through the night.
question

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?
answer

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.
question

What is ironic about Hawthorne’s portrayal of the Puritan society, in terms of this developing theme?
answer

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.
question

How is the episode of Dimmesdale’s midnight vigil on the scaffold structurally significant?
answer

Even though it is not a public confession, he is finally confessing to himself which is a step toward self-forgiveness.
question

What is the significance of Pearl’s challenge to Dimmesdale?
answer

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.
question

What is the significance of the meteor event?
answer

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.
question

How does Dimmesdale feel ashe holds Pearl’s hand?
answer

He is filled with a new energy as all their hands connect. He feels life pouring into him once more.
question

Why does Pearl pull away from Dimmesdale?
answer

She doesn’t yet trust him since he won’t stand on the scaffold with them during the day.
question

What effect does Dimmesdale’s vigil have on his career?
answer

He is more successful as a preacher. They find his glove on the scaffold and they think its just the devil plotting against him.

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