Mr. Dimmesdale's Feelings of Guilt and Shame in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Scarlet Letter"

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Guilt, shame, and penitence are just a few of the emotions that are often associated with a great act of sin. Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale, a highly respected minister of a 17th century Puritan community, is true example of this as he was somehow affected by all of these emotions after committing adultery. Due to the seven years of torturous internal struggle that finally resulted in his untimely death, Mr. Dimmesdale is the character who suffered the most throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Mr. Dimmesdale’s ever present guilt and boundless penance cause him an ongoing mental struggle of remorse and his conscience as well as deep physical pain from deprivation and self inflicted wounds. The external influence of the members of …show more content…
Mr. Dimmesdale’s conscience constantly brought his negative aspects to mind, and caused him to spiral into self hatred and misery. The overwhelming presence of guilt for his offense caused Mr. Dimmesdale unbearable suffering and general unhappiness in knowing that he had not only wronged God, but Hester and the entire community as well.
Mr. Dimmesdale’s strong ties to his Puritan faith cause him to commit endless acts of severe penance as retribution for his sin, only bringing him continuous physical suffering and the longing for absolution. Dimmesdale’s faithfulness leads him to beg for God’s forgiveness through his actions in the hopes of saving his soul and avoiding some of the punishment he will likely bear in the afterlife. His penitence and fear of public exposure cause Dimmesdale to whip himself harshly in the closet and to fast “…rigorously, and until his knees trembled beneath him, as an act of penance” (136). Because of the lack of courage within his character, Mr. Dimmesdale turns to private suffering rather than public shame as a means for his atonement. These excessive acts of penance resulted in his suffering of intense physical and mental weakness, and causing him to become frail in overall spirit. In his most extreme act of repentance, Mr. Dimmesdale stooped to self-mutilation by carving the letter A into his own chest to match
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