Dimmesdale Lacks Courage in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter - Dimmesdale is Good, but Lacks Courage There is a fine line between hypocrisy and cowardice. Arthur Dimmesdale, a principal character in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter provides a perfect example of how thin that line can be. The Scarlet Letter relates a story about sin and the many consequences of not having strength of character. The true nature of Reverend Dimmesdale's character has been debated since the first publication of the novel. Dimmesdale is considered by many to be a hypocrite because he cared more about protecting his reputation than he did about protecting the woman he loved. Others view the Reverend in a more sympathetic light and see him as not a hypocrite, but as a good man…show more content…
This is proved by looking at the torment the Reverend faced internally and externally, his intentions, and his love and concern for the welfare of Hester and his illegitimate daughter, Pearl. The agony that Reverend Dimmesdale was feeling throughout the novel had many origins. For example, his conscience had a great negative effect on him. By keeping his sin a secret, he internalized the pain that is inevitably a consequence of sinning. The anguished Dimmesdale struggles to pacify his conscience as it consumes his very being. "With every successive Sabbath, his cheeks grew paler and thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before." This shows that while Hester's pain was a mental anguish, the Reverend had to deal with both mental as well as physical pain. Each time Dimmesdale stood in front of his congregation, he felt weaker and more ashamed. Dimmesdale's pain could be seen not only in his demeanor but also by the clutching of his chest. Throughout the novel, the Reverend could be seen placing his hand over his heart, as if the pain of seeing Pearl, or talking to Hester, or merely realizing what he has done, was too much for him to bear. Pearl often times is quoted noticing the Reverend's strange habit- "A strange, sad man is he (Dimmesdale), with his hand always over his heart!" An analogy can be made that the Reverend covers his heart from eyes that can see
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