Silence and Secrecy in Hawthrone’s The Scarlet Letter

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

The novel, “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthrone was originally published in the year 1850, this novel grasps the reader’s attention from the very beginning by introducing the first of numerous images that will come to overwhelm the story. This novel is based off on the silence and secrecy the characters have between one another. Hester, who is one of the main characters in the story commits the sin of adultery, and keeps the name of her accomplice in secret for many years. Hester’s secrecy does not only affect her but the people who surround her as well. Silence and secrecy have a major impact the people who keep quiet, emotions that are expressed are often built up inside a person and end up causing trouble. The plot of the book is focused on Hester Prynne’s mystery sin of adultery. Nathaniel Hawthorne draws striking parallelism between the secrets which are kept from the people of Salem and the physical and mental conditions of the individuals who hold them. The Scarlet Letter exhibits that a mystery or feeling kept inside gradually overwhelms and crushes the spirit, for example, Dimmesdale’s transgression of fraud.

Dimmesdale is a religious minister who seems to be faithful to the people of Salem but no one really knows what he is hiding. The immense power of the secrets he is hiding is a form of a selfish act in Dimmsdale’s point of view. In the beginning of the novel readers are presented with the colony in which Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Hester live in, the colony is known to be full of cruel and unjust punishment. It is shown how Hester is punished for the act of adultery then conceiving a child but her accomplice remains unknown for many years. Dimmesdale knowing he is the father of Hester’s child, Pearl, does not think anything of it and chooses to stay quiet. When Dimmesdale witnesses how Hester is punished and his daughter Pearl are humiliated in front of everyone he is aware that he could be receiving the same type of humiliation and punishment but still remains quiet because he decides his role of a religious minister is more important than playing the role of a father figure and recognizing his sin. The secrets kept by Hester and Dimmesdale throughout the novel are held for so many years causing pain and punishment for themselves and the people around them. In the article Hester’s Revenge: The Power of Silence in The Scarlet Letter the author Leland S. Person mentions, “The novel shows Hawthrone experimenting with the power of silence, with the active, political power of passive resistance” (Person 465) by including this Person is trying to explain how Hawthrone creates suspense throughout the novel by including silence and secrecy having the readers at the edge of waiting to see what’s next.

Throughout the novel hester is required to keep the secret of Pearl’s father in order to protect the father, her child, and herself from the judgmental beliefs of the townspeople. As mentioned in Hester’s Revenge: The Power of Silence in The Scarlet Letter, Person states, “Hester’s silence, in particular, can be viewed as a strategy, a presence in the text, as well as in the frictional world of the novel, that forms the plot and determines the fates of the other characters” (Person 466) by stating this it helps readers acknowledge what Hester was trying to do by keeping the big secret. Hester was protecting the people she cared about and decided to take the punishment herself instead of telling the truth about what actually happened in the past. When Hester was questioned who her accomplice was she took the oath of silence knowing Dimsdale did not want her to reveal his cover. Dimmsdale seems to be concerned about keeping his high position in their society as a religious minister. He is described as a weak man whose only concern is himself.

On the article, Silence and Secrecy: Psychosomatics and Discourse in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter the author Lauren Battista states, “Indeed, Hester utilizes silence as a strategic retribution for Chillingworth and Dimmesdale’s Deviance and indiscretions, but Chillingworth and Dimmesdale unknowingly inflict punishment upon themselves, as well” (Battista 2) Hester was trying to cause a type of punishment for Dimmesdale and Chillingworth by keeping secrets, but without Hester knowing, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale were already suffering greatly because of their guilt. Chillingworth and Dimmesdale throughout the years had the guilt being built up in them, it kept bothering them on a daily basis causing suffering to both.

Dimmesdale and Hester have a hard relationship throughout the novel and do not know how to express their feelings. In the article, Silence and Secrecy: Psychosomatics and Discourse in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, The author Lauren Battista states, “ Ultimately, Dimmesdale forms an obsessive preoccupation with maintaining his secret, which forces him to suppress his true feelings for Hester” (Battista 6) by stating this readers are able to understand Dimmesdale’s true feelings for Hester and how it was some type of forbidden love for both of them since they would be in a big dilema, and they weren’t only thinking about themselves but about Pearl as well and how it would affect her not only publically but mentally as well.

Hester is humiliated and punished in front of the people of Salem in the scaffold for three hours, she remains silent when asked questions in order to protect the people she cares about which are Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. She is forced to wear the scarlet letter A as a form of punishment which stand for the sin of adultery. The way Hester was punished, and humiliated in front of everyone and did not say a word about Dimmesdale when he deserved to be exposed shows just how strong of an individual she is, and how she cares about his reputation as well. At the beginning, Hester was embarrassed but as time passed by, she was determined to keep on with her life not caring what people thought of her. Hester’s appearance started to mirror her sentiments; she wore additionally disguising dress and sheathes her hair. Hester attempts to go on with her life as ordinary, setting up living arrangement on the edges of town and taking on sewing occupations just as raising Pearl without anyone else’s input. The way Hester stayed strong in order to keep Pearl from suffering showed readers how much love she had for her child and will she had of continuing with her life.

Dimmesdale is conscious of what he has done and is aware of his wrongdoings but does not have any purpose of revealing his true identity. While Hester believes Dimmesdale does not have a slight of care of his sins, dimmesdale is actually torturing himself not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. The reason to why Dimmesdale punishes himself is because he does indeed feel guilty because Hester is being punished and humiliated in front of everyone meanwhile he is not. Because he Dimmesdale tortures himself by wiping his flesh with a scourge which is his way of punishment he found relief from doing so. My doing this it shows readers that he isn’t so self-centered as he is first introduced, he is mentally affected on a daily basis and decides he deserves punishment as well and not only Hester. Despite the fact that Dimmesdale felt amazingly regretful, he never really needed to concede that he had sinned. The way that he proposed to admit his sin for the last time during the night shows that he doesn’t want the people of Salem to know, yet simply needs to let go of his own conscious by admitting to himself. Even though he only wants to clear his conscious he ends up admitting his sin.

Dimmesdale liberates himself from blame by admitting his sin and remaining upon the scaffold with Hester and Pearl during the light of day. Dimmesdale shows his chest in the third scaffold scene which is Hawthorne’s method for proposing that the minister has a scar on his chest like Hester’s A which shows his blame. By demonstrating his chest to the general population, Dimmesdale is uncovering the reality that was hidden for so many years, which was that he committed the sin of adultery. When Dimmesdale shows his scars he is showing just how conscious he was of his mistakes and finally comes to light admitting his truths. In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthrone portrays how silence and secrecy have a big impact on a person physically and mentally. Hester and Dimmesdale are set in a difficult position where they have submitted the sin of adultery. Watching their lives unfurl, readers are given the understanding into how keeping secrets in silence influences an individual. Hawthorne encourages spectators to abstain from being placed in such circumstances; for the consequences can be very difficult to bear.


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