Dimmesdale expressed his guilt internally and is forced to deal with it himself. He holds his lie and sin in until he finally reveals it and in that time he is released from his personal trap, when he dies. Not only does he fear the public rejection and judgement, he would also get in legal trouble and will have to deal with the same guilt. His guilt eats away at him as he is forced to life his day to day life.
Nearing the middle of Hawthorne’s novel Dimmesdale is able to communicate with Hester and find some peace when he befriended Chillingworth. Throughout the novel it is revealed many times the pain Dimmesdale is forced to deal with. “It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him!” (Hawthorne 99). It is revealed why Dimmesdale experiences such tortuous guilt. Only he and Hester know the truth and he finds this even more immoral. The difference between how Dimmesdale sees himself and how the rest of town sees him is what leads to him always experiencing such guilt.
If he was seen as less of a perfect man, Dimmesdale may have been able to deal with the guilt more efficiently. The guilt eats him apart to the point where it causes him physical pain. “Happy you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years’ cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!” (Hawthorne 131). Dimmesdale must live with the guilt of sin. Unlike Hester, Dimmesdale must hide what he has done because of his position in the town. He tells Hester that she’s lucky to be able to live the truth unlike him, who lives with the scarlet letter burning on his chest secretly. Being with Hester gives him relief, because for once in the seven years of pain, he is able to talk to someone who knows him for “what he really is”. He feels with Hester he may be more open and helps relieve the symptoms of quilt temporarily before they are forced to separate again. Dimmesdale did not want to make his communication with Hester too frequent so nothing was assumed.
“What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?-or a polluted soul, towards their purification? And as for as the people’s reverence, would that it were turned to scorn and hatred! Canst thou deem it, Hester a consolation, that I must stand up
in pulpit, and meet so many eyes turned upward to my face, as of the light of heaven was beating from it!” (Hawthorne 130). Dimmesdale sits with Hester in the forest, expressing him pain while revealing his internal conflict. Dimmesdale tells her how difficult it is for him to stand in front of the congregation and preach to the people about living a purified lives when he bares burden of sin himself. Dimmesdale tortures himself and is in the middle of a breakdown. It is obvious that he is not strong enough to live a double life, devoted to his job as a minster and is in love with an adulterous, as he is one. He says he feels the “light of heaven beats on him each time he lies to the people. As if the light illuminates the guilt he has,” (Hawthorne 92). The townspeople find the fact that Dimmesdale has sinner even better for their view of him. They think that if has sinned, what have they done. He finds this frustrating and only makes him all the more mad.
“Oh, Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame!—the indelicacy!—the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, thou art accountable for this!—I cannot forgive thee!” (Hawthorne132). After Hester has told Dimmesdale her “lost” husband is Chillingworth he gets angry at Hester for keeping such a thing from him. He is upset and is reduced to the ground with his face in his hands. He implies to her that he had a guess that it was him, as if all the clues pointed towards Chillingworth but he refused to admit it to himself ,and he tells her that she can not imagine the horror of the situation. And he ends his part by saying “thou art accountable for this!—I cannot forgive the,” (Hawthorne 164). Dimmesdale forgive Hester for lying eventually but still cannot forgive himself. At this point of the novel Dimmesdale is very sick and brittle. The pain has taken over him and he is nearing his end. Dimmesdale knows this and so does Chillingworth, who knows that Dimmesdale knows who he really is.
Eventually Dimmesdale admits at a service that he hides his sins but he does sin. Dimmesdale wants to truly expose his sin and tell everybody what he has really done. “All the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him.” (Hawthorne 107). The fear of being seen as a sinner is what leads to him being unable to take responsibility for his actions, this then leading to his overwhelming guilt and internal conflict. Dimmesdale wants to stop hiding and be honest about his past, but he is very sensitive to public approval and fears the idea of being publicly shamed for his sins, just like Hester was years prior. It leads the reader to question why Hester found it easier to overcome her guilt and build herself to be better while Dimmesdale can not even admit it to himself. In addition to the statement made previously, we can further argue that Dimmesdale’s sin in literally killing him. “…the minister speaks again of ‘the law we broke’. The freedom of the forest has been replaced by the rules of the village. After confessing he dies.” (infobase learning). Once Dimmesdale admits his sin, he is released from his trap and collapses on the scaffold. Hawthorne slowly led up to Dimmesdale death by him torturing himself. Release is exactly was Dimmesdale needed to forgive himself.
Not only has Dimmesdale had to live with the pain of the guilt he has caused himself but he also admits to Hester that he has felt betrayed by Chillingworth and also mention mostly the guilt from the beginning of the quote and that nobody understand the pain. The second half of the novel is more intense guilty feelings and pain and add more debt to him and just make his seem more sorrowful. It is ironic that he feels this was and can admit it for certain and immediately but it has taken him so long to figure out his own guilt and even admit it to himself because he has already admitted he sins to the town people. Everything that happens in the novel leads back to the scarlet A on the adulterer chest. One is burned in, expressing the real pain and one is simply sewn on her chest that can be removed and is only temporary. Dimmesdale thinks this is all that represents him. It can be concluded that Dimmesdale’s sin is his ultimate demise and breaks him down over many years.