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The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Summary Key Questions and Answers
Summary Key Questions and Answers

3) What does Dimmesdale believe he sees when the meteor lights up the night sky?

As Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl, a meteor passes overhead, and Dimmesdale believes he sees it spell out the letter “A”: “the minister, looking upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense letter.” At first it seems like Dimmesdale’s vision of the letter stems from his guilty obsession with his secret sin; however, the next morning it is confirmed that other people also saw the same shape in the sky. They, however, interpreted the letter differently; as the sexton explains, “we interpret [it] to stand for Angel. For, as our good Governor Winthrop, was made an angel this past night.” This difference in interpretation foreshadows how, at the end of the novel, there will be different accounts of what people saw when Dimmesdale bared his chest to the crowd.