Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Essay
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale is a main character. In the novel, Dimmesdale comes out as a hypocrite. He is depicted as a kind man, full of wisdom and eloquent speaker. He is a respected clergyman. But he is involved in sin of adultery and he keeps it a secret for seven years.
As a result guilt consumes him for seven years until he goes through a transformation. This paper explores the effects of hiding his sin and his transformation.
First effect is that, hiding his sin erodes his conscience. He is a preacher of the word of God and encourages the congregation to confess their sins openly. On the contrary, he chooses to conceal his sin which makes his conscience questionable. Keeping his sin a secret punishes him inwardly.
He knows the shame that he may face but he prefers to punish himself by remaining silent about his sin. He remains in a state of self condemnation hence eroding his conscience. Dimmesdale feels like a coward because he lacks the courage to admit his wrongs.
As a result he chooses to conceal his sin which exposes him to an inward pain. Concealing of his sin also costs him his soul’s peace; he remains disturbed for seven years.
Secondly, concealing of his sin affects his physical and mental well- being. He knows revelation of truth about him would make people in the town look down upon him. These thoughts torment him and as a result he goes through a period of depression. His concealed sin leaves him without peace.
The thought of shame that may befall him results to mental distress. The burden of his sin wears him out mentally and physically thus resulting to depleted health and which makes him so weak that he even thinks of his death.
Since the sin was committed Hester and Dimmesdale had no chance to be alone. At some point, the burden of fear of shame overpowered Dimmesdale “-how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier, and his figure more misshapen- since the days when she had familiarly known him” (102)
He decided to run away with Hester and their baby; Pearl. Unfortunately the ship was not leaving for the next four days. At some point Hester discloses to Dimmesdale that her husband knows the two sins that had been tormenting him. Hester and Dimmesdale talk and he seems to be happy and relaxed.
“Do I feel joy again?” Dimmesdale wonders at himself. “Me thought the germ of it was dead in me! -I seem to have flung myself- sick, sin stained and sorrow blackened- down upon these forest leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with new powers to glorify Him that hath been merciful! -This is already the better life! Why did we not find it sooner?”(198) Dimmesdale is delighted.
Dimmesdale decides to confess his sin to the rest of the congregation once they return from the forest. He wonders at himself. “That self was gone! Another man had returned out of the forest; a wiser one-” (200) Dimmesdale finds it wise and peaceful to confess his sin.
After giving his sermon, Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold and he tells the congregation of his sin. He also reveals the mark he bears at his breast. “He tells you, that, with all mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast-. He tore away ministerial band before his chest.
It was revealed! -the gaze of horror stricken multitude was concentrated on the ghastly miracle; while the minister stood with a flush of triumph on his face, as one who, in the crisis of acutest pain, had won a victory.”(228) After the confession Dimmesdale was happy and died. “Farewell!” that final word came forth with the minister’s expiring breath.”(252) He finally set his soul free from the guilt of seven years.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel Inc, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The Scarlet Letter: 1850. New York: Informotions incorporated, 2001. Print.
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