Dimmesdale's Guilt And Internal Struggle In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1085 words - 5 pages

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Mr. Dimmesdale’s greatest fear is that the townspeople will find out about his sin of adultery with Hester Prynne. Mr. Dimmesdale fears that his soul could not take the shame of such a disclosure, as he is an important moral figure in society. However, in not confessing his sin to the public, he suffers through the guilt of his sin, a pain which is exacerbated by the tortures of Roger Chillingworth. Though he consistently chooses guilt over shame, Mr. Dimmesdale goes through a much more painful experience than Hester, who endured the public shame of the scarlet letter. Mr. Dimmesdale’s guilt is much more damaging to his soul than any shame that he ...view middle of the document...

Dimmesdale endured. While it may seem like a poor mockery of Hester’s letter, which was visible to everyone, Mr. Dimmesdale’s caused him much more pain than Hester’s caused her. Over time, Hester’s letter came to be accepted by the townspeople, and once Hester had been accepted there was discussion of allowing her to remove it. In contrast, Mr. Dimmesdale’s letter was not visible to the public, though it caused him much pain. Mr. Dimmesdale always held his hand over his heart as if it was in great pain. His health declined very rapidly, to the point that he moved by limping with the aid of a cane, still holding his hand over his heart. Mr. Dimmesdale’s letter continued to cause him pain until the moment he revealed it, whereas Hester’s public letter was accepted into society quite easily. Had Mr. Dimmesdale chose shame over guilt, his letter would have been public too, preventing the more private torture he endured.
While Mr. Dimmesdale suffers through his guilt alone, Hester’s shame is completely public. After many years of good deeds and a kind nature, Hester becomes accepted as a part of the community. “Individuals in private life, meanwhile, had quite forgiven Hester Prynne for her frailty, nay more, they had begun to look upon the scarlet letter as the token, not of that one sin...but of her many good deeds since” (106). Mr. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is looked upon as being the grandest, most saintly minister to ever preach. In fact, even when Mr. Dimmesdale finally confesses his sin, there is still question about whether he was confessing his sin or merely making one final sermon on the sin within each soul. As the town is so convinced of Mr. Dimmesdale’s worthiness and purity, he becomes even more frightened of telling his secret. Unlike Hester, who was able to gain the respect of the townspeople through her good deeds, Mr. Dimmesdale can never gain the forgiveness of the people, as they respect him without even knowing his crime. Mr. Dimmesdale feels as...

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