In “The Child at the Brookside,” Dimmesdale meets Pearl and Hester in the forest, another one of the many times he has met up with them in secret. Dimmesdale will only meet with them under the cover of night, or in this case the cover of the forest, which also symbolizes darkness. Pearl asks, “Will he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, into the town?” which Hawthorne uses to symbolize them walking together out of the darkness of secrecy and into the light of the public eye. Pearl, the only one who seems to question the fact that Dimmesdale is always hiding something, also asks “And will he always keep his hand over his heart?” Dimmesdale ends up keeping his secret until he can take it no more, and he dies from the guilt and mental torture of it all. He never takes his hand from his heart, instead choosing to always keep his secret concealed. Hester and Pearl prove to be the strongest characters of the book, surviving and rising above the public humiliation and isolation brought on by Hester being forced to wear her sin on the outside.
One of the most interesting parts of the Scarlet Letter is the contrast between how Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne suffer and deal with their sins. For Hester, she is forced to publicly own up to what she has done, and everyone knows that she has committed a sin. In Dimmesdale’s case, he keeps his sin as a secret. No one knows what he has done, and even as he tries to speak about how he has sinned in his sermons, everyone thinks this makes him more holy. The guilt of what he has done and what he has not said physically sickens him, and he begins to lose his mind. Though what Hester has gone through was not pleasant for her, and there are plenty of social consequences she has to suffer, owning up to her sins and allowing them to be part of the past is a much healthier way of dealing with them. Dimmesdale has to relive it every second of every day, and even though deep down he wants people to know, he is terrified of anyone finding out. This is especially highlighted in chapter 5, “The Leech and his Patient,” when Chillingsworth is trying to get Dimmesdale to confess what his secret is.
In chapter four, “The Interview,” it was interesting how Roger Chillingsworth spoke to Hester about how he knew she never loved him and how he did not blame her for what happened. He talks about how he was unworthy of her youthful beauty, and how it was his mistake that he thought “intellectual gifts might veil physical deformity in a young girl’s fantasy,” (491). Hester, who is upset by this, says that she did not ever pretend to love him, and that she was always honest with him. Chillingsworth says that they have “wronged each other,” (492), and so he does not feel the need for revenge towards her. However, “the man lives who has wronged us both!” (492). This is the beginning of Chillingsworth’s manic, unrelenting search for the man who is Pearl’s father. Hester refuses to tell Chillingsworth who the man is, which only increases his desire to find him. It becomes an obsession, and Chillingsworth pours everything he has into finding and punishing this mystery man. This also seems to be his way for punishing Hester, because Chillingsworth knows that she is trying to protect the man by not speaking his name.