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Arthur Dimmesdale In The Scarlet Letter

1596 words - 6 pages

The Scarlet LetterArthur Dimmesdale

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, proves to be a sinner against man, against God and most importantly against himself because he has committed adultery with Hester Prynne, resulting in an illegitimate child, Pearl. His sinning against himself, for which he ultimately paid the
price of death, proved to be more harmful and more destructive than this sin of the flesh, and his sin against God. Socrates said, “Knowthyself,” and Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” If Reverend Dimmesdale had been true to himself he certainly wouldn’t have suffered as much as he did. What drove Dimmesdale to hold in his self-condemning truth? To answer this, it’s necessary to examine the whole character of Reverend Dimmesdale while explaining his sinful situation.

Dimmesdale is not ignorant, he is very well educated. As Hawthorne states, “…Rev. Mr. Dimmesdale; a young clergyman who had come from one of the great English universities, bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forestland. His eloquence and religious fervor had already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession.” (Hawthorne 72) This man’s morals had, until the adultery, been high. He is very spiritual because on top of being of the Puritan faith, he is a minister of the word of God. Throughout most of the novel, Rev. Dimmesdale is forced to hide his guilt of being Hester’s partner in sin. When in reality, he is not being forced by anyone, but himself, for he is the one who chooses not to reveal his secret to the town. Dimmesdalehas a concealed sin that is, eating at him. He just doesn’t have the courage to admit his wrongs. He seems to be a coward during these seven years of living with guilt. There is a scene in chapter 3 where Rev. Dimmesdale states, “Hester Prynne…If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow –sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for,
believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life? What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him-yea compel him as it were-to add hypocrisy to sin?” (73) In this scene it is almost as if we see Dimmesdale speaking as a hypocrite, himself!

Dimmesdale portrays himself very ironically. He is a very well respected reverend and yet, has, for the last 7 years, worked on preaching the word of God, especially while he urges the congregation to confess openly to repent unto God. While, in reality, Dimmesdale is the one whoneeds a clean conscious. He feels like he needs to confess not only to the town but also too himself. Halfway through the novel

Dimmesdale has yet to reveal the truth, which, so...

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