The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1227 words - 5 pages

“A bloody scourge…rigorously, and until his knees trembled beneath him, as an act of penance.” (Hawthorne, 141) In the Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Minister Dimmesdale starved himself, whipped himself, and tortured himself to get rid of the guilt caused by his sin with Hester Prynne. Hawthorne describes the minister’s guilt as the evil that anchored him down and shows how Dimmesdale tortures himself but can never get rid of it. His guilt came from many things. First was his guilt for committing the crime with Hester Prynne. Second is his guilt for not being with her at the time that she was put upon the scaffold. Last was his guilt from not revealing himself to his own daughter and from having to stay out of her life due to fear of being shamed by the community. Hawthorne’s views on guilt and Dimmesdale are mostly that his guilt controlled his life completely until the very end when the power of the sin and guilt took over to the point where he couldn’t control himself.
Hawthorne uses imagery to highlight the blackness and darkness of Dimmesdale’s guilty heart. Dimmesdale says this about himself when he is talking with Chillingworth says that the men meaning himself, “shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men…they go about among their fellow-creatures looking pure as new-fallen snow; while their hearts are all speckled and spotted with iniquity of which they cannot rid themselves.” (Hawthorne, 129) Hawthorne uses the dark imagery and the contrasting terms such as “speckled and spotty heart” compared to “pure as new-fallen snow” to show how the guilt in a man’s heart remains with them on the inside even if they don’t show it on the outside. Hawthorne is alluding to Dimmesdale and how he kept the secret of his crime and how he kept it from everyone else. Another instance when Hawthorne used imagery to portray Dimmesdale’s guilt was when he was talking to Dimmesdale about the black plant that was found upon the grave of the sinner who took his sins with him to his death. Dimmesdale says that “The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed...the hearts holding such miserable secrets as you speak of will yield them up, at that last day, not with reluctance, but with a joy unutterable.” (Hawthorne, 127-128) The imagery of the plant and the joy of revealing the sin and being free from the guilt shows how Dimmesdale feels about the guilt. Although he does not exclaim it outright, he is indirectly saying that he cannot contain his guilt any longer, and that he must expel his guilt and sin by revealing it all on the judgment day upon which he shall “have a joy unutterable.” This is shown in chapter 17-20 where his guilt for not being with Hester upon the scaffold and revealing himself is shown.
Hawthorne uses large amounts of repetition dealing with pain when he addresses the topic of guilt in Dimmesdale. This guilt came from...

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