The Scarlet Letter also became intensely popular upon publication because it had the good fortune of becoming one of America's first mass-published books. Before The Scarlet Letter, books in America usually were handmade, sold one by one in small numbers. But Hawthorne's novel benefited from a machine press, and its first run of 2,500 copies sold out immediately. As a result, then, The Scarlet Letter benefited not only from its implicit controversial subject matter but also from an unusually large available readership. Readers who agreed or disagreed with the book's choices, however subtly, could spread the word. The novel became the equivalent of a seminal political tract--and the subject of endless discussion and debate, no doubt influencing social change. The novel also benefited because of Hawthorne’s support and respect among New England's literary establishment (he would soon become good friends with Herman Melville). Thus, the novel became popular not only with the masses. It was heralded as “appropriate” reading despite its attention to adulterous love.
Hester's appeal to Arthur Dimmesdale marks a turning point in the novel. It is probably the first time she has relied on her relationship with the minister for support, and it makes the other men aware that Dimmesdale knows Hester better than they thought. Dimmesdale steps forward with his hand over his heart, again hiding the scarlet letter which he feels upon his breast. This also is related to Chillingworth's comment that he will recognize Pearl's true father by "reading" his heart. Dimmesdale then correctly associates Pearl with the scarlet letter upon her mother's bosom, and he manages to keep the mother and daughter together. Pearl's response is unique at this juncture, taking the minister's hand and placing her cheek against it. This simple gesture is full of meaning, because it implies that Pearl recognizes Dimmesdale as being connected to her. Dimmesdale responds by kissing her on the forehead, in a sense claiming her as his own child.