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Hipocrisy Of Religious Figures In The Works Of Nathaniel Hawthorne

2588 words - 11 pages

When going into a building, whether it is a church, a school, or a workplace, a person can normally see a difference in few people. Christians usually set themselves apart from the rest of the world because they have something others do not, Jesus Christ. Religious figures such as pastors, reverends, or ministers are supposed to set a good example for everyone so that people may look up to them. Nathaniel Hawthorne had a very good example of an unrighteous man in his great-grandfather who served as a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. An event which so impressed Hawthorne, that he changed the spelling of his name to separate himself from the identity of Judge Hathorn. With the impression of the events of the Salem Witch Trials, it is little wonder that Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Puritan beliefs and background as sources for his writings. Nathaniel Hawthorne writes about many religious figures in each of his books or short stories; however, they are not always righteous. Hawthorne uses The Scarlet Letter, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “Young Goodman Brown” to serve as an indictment of Puritan society.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale as the religious leader who commits sin while serving as a religious leader. Hester Prynne who is condemned for being an adulteress is constantly being reminded of the horrible sin she has committed. The congregation, as well as Reverend Dimmesdale, talks about her and what she has done, but the congregation does not realize that the Reverend has committed the same sin. Reverend Dimmesdale says to the congregation, “I stand upon the spot where, seven years since… He bids you look again at Hester's scarlet letter! He tells you, that, with all its mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast…” (233). Reverend Dimmesdale represents a religious figure and the congregation is supposed to look up to their leader. Lee Applebaum states, “However, he proves to be all too human when he enters into an adulterous union with Hester” (30). Although he is a person people in the church and congregation people look up to, he proves to be just like anyone else and does not stay true to his position as a reverend.
In The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Dimmesdale has a conversation with Hester in the forest. He seems to love the strength she has for people to condemn her for what she has done. “Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret!” (175-176). Dimmesdale knows what he has done and knows that he has committed a sin and it stays with him until the end of the book. Hunt explains, “What appears to be Dimmesdale’s personal hypocrisy is, in fact, consonant with the tenets of his faith and the moral norms of his community” (29). Dimmesdale never really got over the fact that he had a child out of wedlock. At the end of the book, Dimmesdale finally confesses what he has done. He is so overwhelmed by the thought of...

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