The Scarlet Letter

Arthur Dimmesdale Character Analysis

A well respected Boston reverend who has an affair with Hester Prynne and is the secret father of Pearl. Shy, retiring, and well loved and respected by his public, Dimmesdale is too frightened and selfish to reveal his sin and bear the burden of punishment with Hester. Yet at the same time, Dimmesdale secretly punishes himself for his sin by fasting and whipping himself. Ultimately the suffering and punishment he endures, though self-inflicted, proves far worse than Hester's or Pearl's, suggesting that betrayal and selfishness are greater sins than adultery. Dimmesdale's guilty conscience overwhelms him like a plague, robbing him of his health and preventing him from raising his daughter. His eventual confession comes too late, and he dies a victim of his own pride.

Arthur Dimmesdale Quotes in The Scarlet Letter

The The Scarlet Letter quotes below are all either spoken by Arthur Dimmesdale or refer to Arthur Dimmesdale. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sin Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Scarlet Letter published in 2015.
Chapter 3 Quotes
"Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him--yea, compel him, as it were--to add hypocrisy to sin?"
Related Characters: Arthur Dimmesdale (speaker), Hester Prynne
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes
As he spoke, he laid his long forefinger on the scarlet letter, which forwith seemed to scortch into Hester’s breast, as if it had been red-hot. He noticed her involuntary gesture, and smiled. “Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, in the eyes of men and women—in the eyes of him thou didst call thy husband—in the eyes of yonder child! And, that thou mayst live, take off this draught.”
Related Characters: Roger Chillingworth (speaker), Hester Prynne, Pearl, Arthur Dimmesdale
Related Symbols: Red and Black
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes
Would not the people start up in their seats, by a simultaneous impulse, and tear him down out of the pulpit which he defiled? Not so, indeed! They heard it all, and did but reverence him the more. They little guessed what deadly purport lurked in those self-condemning words. "The godly youth!" said they among themselves. "The saint on earth!
Related Characters: Arthur Dimmesdale
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes
"Nay; not so, my little Pearl!" answered the minister; for, with the new energy of the moment, all the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him; and he was already trembling at the conjunction in which—with a strange joy, nevertheless—he now found himself. "Not so, my child. I shall, indeed, stand with thy mother thee one other day, but not to-morrow!"
Related Characters: Arthur Dimmesdale (speaker), Hester Prynne, Pearl
Related Symbols: Pearl
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 17 Quotes
The judgment of God is on me," answered the conscience-stricken priest. "It is too mighty for me to struggle with!"

"Heaven would show mercy," rejoined Hester, "hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it."
Related Characters: Hester Prynne (speaker), Arthur Dimmesdale (speaker)
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

"Doth the universe lie within the compass of yonder town, which only a little time ago was but a leaf-strewn desert, as lonely as this around us? Whither leads yonder forest track? Backwards to the settlement, thou sayest! Yes; but onward too! Deeper it goes, and deeper, into the wilderness, less plainly to be seen at every step! until, some few miles hence, the yellow leaves will show no vestige of the white man’s tread. There thou art free! So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou hast been most wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy! Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest to hide thy heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?"
Related Characters: Hester Prynne (speaker), Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 19 Quotes
"Doth he love us?" said Pearl, looking up with acute intelligence into her mother's face. "Will he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, into the town?"

"Not now, dear child," answered Hester. "But in days to come he will walk hand in hand with us. We will have a home and fireside of our own; and thou shalt sit upon his knee; and he will teach thee many things, and love thee dearly. Thou wilt love him; wilt thou not?"

"And will he always keep his hand over his heart?" inquired Pearl.
Related Characters: Hester Prynne (speaker), Pearl (speaker), Arthur Dimmesdale
Related Symbols: Pearl
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 22 Quotes
“Mother," said [Pearl], “was that the same minister that kissed me by the brook?"
“Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl!" whispered her mother. “We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.
Related Characters: Hester Prynne (speaker), Pearl (speaker), Arthur Dimmesdale
Related Symbols: Pearl
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 23 Quotes
Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor for ever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled.
Related Characters: Hester Prynne, Pearl, Arthur Dimmesdale
Related Symbols: Pearl
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Arthur Dimmesdale Character Timeline in The Scarlet Letter

The timeline below shows where the character Arthur Dimmesdale appears in The Scarlet Letter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Sin Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
...women waiting outside the prison say Hester deserved a harsher sentence. One states that Revered Dimmesdale, Hester's pastor, must be ashamed that a member of his congregation committed such an awful... (full context)
Chapter 3
Sin Theme Icon
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Mr. Wilson, an elderly local reverend, addresses Hester and calls on her pastor, Arthur Dimmesdale, to question her about her sin. Dimmesdale demands that she reveal the identity of her... (full context)
Chapter 8
Sin Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
John Wilson, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale arrive at the Governor's residence. The men tease Pearl, calling her a demon-child because of... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
Hester begs Dimmesdale to defend her. Dimmesdale argues that Pearl was sent by God to serve as Hester's... (full context)
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Chillingworth notes that Dimmesdale spoke with an unusual amount of passion and conviction. (full context)
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
Pearl approaches Dimmesdale and grasps his hand. She then runs down the hall. Mr. Wilson remarks that, like... (full context)
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
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The Occult Theme Icon
Dimmesdale's speech convinces the Governor not to take Pearl from Hester. On their way out of... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Dimmesdale's health worsens and he is seen often with his hand over his heart. Chillingworth treats... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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The Occult Theme Icon
As Dimmesdale's health wanes, the locals notice that Chillingworth's has transformed from a kind, elderly, and somewhat... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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The Occult Theme Icon
While serving as Dimmesdale's "leech" (a term for a doctor) Chillingworth begins to suspect that Dimmesdale's condition may stem... (full context)
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Pearl throws one of the burrs she is carrying toward Dimmesdale. She tells Hester that they should leave since the Black Man has possessed Dimmesdale and... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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Dimmesdale's health gets worse. Chillingworth attributes his illness to his secret, but Dimmesdale still refuses to... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Convinced that Dimmesdale is Pearl's father, Chillingworth embarks on a campaign to make his patient as miserable as... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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Dimmesdale continues to preach and delivers some of his most passionate sermons, which focus mostly on... (full context)
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Dimmesdale's guilt makes him hate himself. He punishes himself physically and emotionally, staying up nights thinking... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
One night, Dimmesdale mounts the town scaffold where Hester and Pearl once stood to be shamed. He imagines... (full context)
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Puritanism Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
Hester and Pearl, returning from the deathbed of the colony's first governor, do spot Dimmesdale, and join him on the scaffold. Her eyes alive with "witchcraft," Pearl asks Dimmesdale to... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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The Occult Theme Icon
A meteor lights up the sky in what Dimmesdale thinks is the shape of an "A." Pearl notices Chillingworth watching them. Chillingworth, looking like... (full context)
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The Occult Theme Icon
The next day Dimmesdale delivers his most powerful sermon ever. Afterward, the church sexton returns to Dimmesdale a black... (full context)
Chapter 13
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Hester decides that she must help Dimmesdale by confessing that Chillingworth was her husband, thereby revealing the vengeful motive behind his harsh... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
Hester tells Chillingworth he holds Dimmesdale's life in his hands. Chillingworth says he saved Dimmesdale's life by not revealing his link... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
...Hester for his downfall. Hester agrees, pleading with Chillingworth therefore not to blame and abuse Dimmesdale any further. (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Hester says she must tell Dimmesdale about Chillingworth. He responds that their fate, a "black flower," is no longer in anyone's... (full context)
Chapter 15
Sin Theme Icon
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
...what the scarlet letter means, and asks if Hester wears it for the same reason Dimmesdale covers his heart with his hand. (full context)
Chapter 16
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Hester plans to intercept Dimmesdale along a forest path as he returns to Boston on his way back from visiting... (full context)
Sin Theme Icon
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The Occult Theme Icon
As Hester waits for Dimmesdale, Pearl asks to hear the story of the Black Man, a nickname for the devil.... (full context)
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The Occult Theme Icon
Dimmesdale approaches. He appears weak, and walks with his hand over his heart, where Pearl suspects... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest and hold hands. Dimmesdale says life with a scarlet letter would... (full context)
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Hester reveals to Dimmesdale that Chillingworth was her husband. Dimmesdale, furious, blames her for his suffering. But he then... (full context)
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Dimmesdale says living under Chillingworth's control is worse than death, but he sees no way out.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Dimmesdale decides to flee Boston with Hester. He calls her his "angel" and says he's been... (full context)
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Dimmesdale and Hester discuss Pearl, whom Hester says she barely understands. Pearl, meanwhile, has been playing... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Dimmesdale says he feared that Pearl's resemblance to him would give away his secret—the narrator says... (full context)
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Pearl asks if Dimmesdale will return with them hand in hand to town. Hester says he won't join them... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The Occult Theme Icon
Hester and Dimmesdale agree to flee with Pearl to Europe. As Hester makes plans for them to leave... (full context)
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At home, Dimmesdale tells Chillingworth that the "free air" outside has done him so much good that he... (full context)
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Dimmesdale throws the draft of his most important sermon into the fire and starts from scratch. (full context)
Chapter 21
Puritanism Theme Icon
...("painted barbarians") and some crew members ("desperadoes") from the vessel that Hester will board with Dimmesdale. (full context)
Chapter 22
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Dimmesdale appears in the procession of officials and looks more energetic than ever before. Pearl barely... (full context)
Sin Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
...she can always tell a servant of the Black Man, and that both Hester and Dimmesdale are such servants. Hibbins also compares Hester's scarlet letter to Dimmesdale's habit of covering his... (full context)
The Occult Theme Icon
Pearl asks Mistress Hibbins if she has seen what lies beneath Dimmesdale's hand. Mistress Hibbins invites her to ride to see the Black Man (who she calls... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Dimmesdale awes the crowd with a powerful sermon that predicts Puritan New England will flourish as... (full context)
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After his triumphant sermon, Dimmesdale sees Hester and Pearl in front of the scaffold. He asks them to approach him... (full context)
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On the scaffold, Dimmesdale turns to Hester and says: "Is this not better than what we dreamed of in... (full context)
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Dimmesdale falls to the floor and asks Pearl for a kiss. She kisses him and cries,... (full context)
Chapter 24
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People came up with various explanations for the origin of Dimmesdale's scarlet letter. Some thought Dimmesdale carved it himself, as a penance. Others that Chillingworth, through... (full context)
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Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
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The Occult Theme Icon
After Dimmesdale's death, Chillingworth lost his vitality and died within a year, leaving Pearl a share of... (full context)
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
...letter, which had taken on its own legend over time. She was buried next to Dimmesdale. Their shared tombstone bore a single scarlet letter on a field of black. (full context)