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Excerpt from Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Claudia Johnson

Excerpt from Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Claudia Johnson (courtesy of Greenwood Press)

Dimmesdale's decision to flee Boston with Hester and Pearl and so forever turn his back on confession--the single way he may redeem himself--is, according to Claudia Johnson tantamount to his yielding to witchcraft.


"Moreover, by his behavior after meeting with Hester in the forest, Dimmesdale is close to yielding himself to witchcraft. His dark side is so obvious to Mistress Hibbins that she is sure the he is now a witch: "you carry if off like an old hand! But at midnight, and in the forest, we shall have other talk together!" He thinks after Mistress Hibbins accuses him of having met with the devil: "Have I then sold myself . . . to the fiend whom, if man say true, this yellow-starched and velveted old hag has chosen for her prince and master!" She continues to believe that Dimmesdale is a witch, even as he is passing by in all his ministerial and righteous pomp in the procession on Election Day, and needles Hester with her suspicions"(116).




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