The Scarlet Letter: Arthur Dimmesdale As Protagonist.

3454 words - 14 pages

"Hidden Guilt Abolishes Selfhood"Those who keep their sins and feelings to themselves cause themselves only anguish and despair. In The Scarlet Letter, a romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is a young man who achieved fame in England as a theologian and then immigrated to America. In a moment of weakness, he and Hester Prynne, a young, beautiful, married woman whose husband is away in Europe, become lovers. Although he will not confess it publicly, Dimmesdale is the father of her child; also, he deals with the guilt by tormenting himself physically and psychologically, developing a heart condition in the process. Dimmesdale is an intelligent and emotional man, and his sermons are thus masterpieces of eloquence and persuasiveness. His commitments to his congregation are in constant conflict with his feelings of sinfulness and need to confess. He lives behind a false self for many years while unknowingly living beside Hester's husband, finally his true self appears and he is redeemed of his sins as he admits them publicly. Selfhood can be achieved when a hypocritical persona is rejected and the true self consistently emerges. Dimmesdale is shown as the protagonist of the romance through Hawthorne's use of characterization, conflict, by showing the transformation of Dimmesdale, and by showing that Roger Chillingworth and Dimmesdale's own guilt oppose him.Hawthorne uses characterization throughout The Scarlet Letter to show Dimmesdale as the protagonist. The Scarlet Letter is a story of characters that have to live and deal with the effects of sin in different ways; of these characters, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is the character portrayed as the most inadequate. Despite this portrayal Dimmesdale was a stronger character than given credit for, his unbelievable amount of control in his way of handling his burdens displays his great sense of strength and intellect; although, he is very intelligent, his faults mask his dignity, Dimmesdale is aware that he is covering up his true self but hides these feelings to keep his reputation of being a pious, dutiful minister. His shortcomings and distress throughout the narrative conceal his pride, "Dimmesdale clearly suffers from an excess of self. His weakness and suffering throughout most of the romance, as I suggested earlier, have tended to blur for some readers the fact of his pride, which, like his scarlet letter, lies beneath and gives special form to his mask of saintliness" (Martin 124). He is first characterized as a nervous and sensitive individual, despite his outer appearance, inside Dimmesdale is a very stable, strong person. Hawthorne states that he showed nervous sensibility and a great willpower, "His eloquence and religious fervor had already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession...expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-restraint" (Hawthorne 51). While this seems to give Dimmesdale great strength, it is also his largest flaw;...

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