When Hester fixed the onerous scarlet letter back onto her bosom, “the warmth and richness of her womanhood departed, like fading sunshine,” leaving behind only a “gray shadow” in its place (145). As a result, the beauty Hester once held with such alacrity was snatched away by the venomous stigma society had placed on her. Moreover, society, by humiliating Hester with the scarlet letter, destroyed her very sense of self, thus causing her to grow into a character filled with woe; the infectious remorse placed by society consumed Hester - eating away at her beauty and humanity. Over time, Hester’s face began to incorporate the “frozen calmness of a dead woman’s features,” and Hester seemed “actually dead” (155). Hester, similar to a dead body, was unable to return to the living; she lost everything that once made her a beautiful lady. The woman whom society once viewed with esteem no longer existed, and in her place was a ghoulish, empty shell of a human who could never return to its original form. Hester is comparable to the rose bush with its “delicate gems,” and “fragile beauty,” caged behind the prison door “studded with iron spikes” (33). Hester’s allure is restrained by the pernicious barbs of society’s harsh punishments, so that she herself is an object not of admiration, but of scorn. Shackled by the chains of an immoral
Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his bold novel, The Scarlet Letter tackles a variety of themes that include: sin, guilt, redemption, postfeminism, and organized religion's abuse of power. Hawthorne spoke in a somber and grim tone, designed to arouse a sense of suspense for his readers. The audience in which he was addressing would have been conservative Christians and women suffragettes, all of whom reflected the ideologies during this time period. By instilling clever diction, Hawthorne exposes hypocrisy in Puritanism and objects against the religion's superfluous punishments; which force individuals to endure unnecessary and extreme suffering.
A reader may label Dimmesdale the purest of the sinners. Adultery, in the Christian world, is the one of the greatest sins a man can commit, second only to premeditated murder. In a Puritan society, it must be close to the same. Dimmesdale tries to purge himself of this evil sin by scourging and self-denial. However, he shies away from public confession, rationalizing the good he can instill in other men and women with his sermons. We find this illogical reasoning on page He endures Chillingworth's revenge and hatred while trying to preach what he doesn't practice. At his weakest point, Hester tempts him to cave in to the sin and do it all over again. Out of desperation to flee from the torture, he crumbles
The second character, Arthur Dimmesdale is the epitome of hypocrisy. Hawthorne intended his name to have symbolic meaning, Dimmesdale meaning dim or not very bright. Arthur might be bright in the areas of theology, but when it comes to hypocrisy, he is a fool. Dimmesdale says very near the beginning of the book “What can thy silence do for him, except to tempt him---yea, compel him, as it were---to add hypocrisy to sin?”(Dimmesdale 47). He knows what will happen to him if he endures his sin in private, but he is too weak at this point in the book to admit it. The tapestries of biblical adultery, which are found in Arthur’s room, are hypocritical. These are supposed to help him atone for his sins by making him feel guilty, but he feels no better. Arthur goes and preaches every week on how bad sin is, and how he is the worst sinner of them all. These partial confessions just make him more of a hypocrite. Dimmesdale knows how the parishioners will interpret these confessions; he is not blind to their looks of adoration. Dimmesdale enjoys
Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays the ideology of Puritan society in the novel the Scarlet Letter; however reader also get to witness his characters being an illustration of hypocrisy and victims to their own guilt. In the Scarlet Letter, as in many of Hawthorne’s shorter works, he makes profuse use of the Puritan past: its odd exclusionary belief, its harsh code of ruling, its concern with sex and witchcraft. The Scarlet Letter is a story that is embellished but yet simple. Many readers may view this novel as a soap opera due to the way Hawthorne conveys this Puritan society’s sense of strictness and inability to express true emotion along with the secrecy and how deceiving the characters are being. As the story unfolds the main character Hester Prynne is bounded in marriage at an early age. She engages in an adulterous affair with an unknown member of their small village. Hester soon becomes pregnant and with her husband’s absence the chances of this child belonging to her husband are slim. The towns’ people know that she has committed a sin and imprisons her for her crime.
Dimmesdale has yet to reveal the truth, which, so far, has been devouring him,physically and mentally. Since this good reverend is so spiritual, he cannot reveal his truths to the town so simply. He is of the Puritan faith and being a follower of that, the sin of adultery is a very grand sin. The whole town would look down on him as if he were a hypocrite. Which in fact, he is, but his sin of adultery in that town would have been scoffed at just as Hester’s has. The reverend is so well liked by the townsfolk that
Dimmesdale doesn’t tell anyone that he’s Hester’s lover and when given the chance to admit his sin, he let it go so many times . There is a time Hester asks him for help when the old minister tries to take Pearl away from her, she says “Thou wast my pastor, and hadst charge of my soul, and knows me better than these men can. I will not lose my child! Speak for me! Thou knows,—for thou hast sympathies which these men lack!—thou knows what is in my heart, and what are a mother’s rights, and how much the stronger there are when that mother has but her child and the scarlet letter! Look thou to it! I will not lose the child! Look to it!” (105). At that time there’s an opportunity that he could tell everyone the truth and stand up for them, but he chooses to hide it instead to admit what he has done and allow everyone to learn from his imperfection. He is the worst sinner because he is a coward that he decides not to confess to everyone even though he has so many opportunities.
Dimmesdale effectively locked up his sin within himself, successfully fooling almost every soul. It would be too simple and hardly true to conclude Dimmesdale is cowardly, just avoiding death. Dimmesdale continues on his regular life on the outside, cutting off most ties to Hester and Pearl. Absorbing himself God’s work, Minister Dimmesdale uses his sin to deliver powerful sermons. The sermons indulged Dimmesdale while he openly, though vaguely, publicly spoke about his sin, relieving some torture of not being able to confess. Regardless, the townspeople would soon after compliment him on
Dimmesdale has a largely different approach to dealing with his sin. Arthur Dimmesdale handles his terrible guilt by concealing it to himself. To overcome it he would whip himself, and take long walks into the forest. Dimmesdale’s act of concealing his guilt shows that he is not brave enough to tell all and there for he must live fearfully and cowardly. This guilt he has chose to endure is much worse than any shame he would have felt had he just confessed his sin of adultery with Hester. Since he was a moral leader in his town he felt an obligation to keep it a secret but like in many cases where guilt is concealed, the sinner eventually reasons enough to confess. Dimmesdale does the same and confesses his sin to the townspeople. “He longed to speak out from his own pulpit, at the full height of his voice, and tell his people who he was.”
The minister Dimmesdale is greatly affected by the weight of guilt he carries with him everyday of his proceeding life. Since his sin is unknown to society, there is not a public crowd to look down upon him, but one Roger Chillingworth who lives just to torture Dimmesdale. He wishes and prays most often that the public know of his wrong, rather than hold it secret, as it would be less painful. "Happy are you,
Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne repeatedly portrays the Puritanical views of sin and evil. The Puritans are constantly displayed as believing that evil comes from an unyielding bond being formed between love and hate. For such reasons they looked towards Hester's commitment of adultery as an action of pure, condemned evil. However, through the use of light and dark imagery, Hawthorne displays who truly holds evil in their hearts. The one who is the embodiment of evil creates hypocrisy of Puritanical views towards sin and evil. Hawthorne displays that those who expose sin to the public and the daylight are the most pure and those who conceal their sin under a
Nathaniel Hawthorne's bold novel, The Scarlet Letter, revolves around sin and punishment. The main characters of the novel sharply contrast each other in the way they react to the sin that has been committed
Puritan society is also portrayed in a negative light when observing its effects on Dimmesdale. Arthur Dimmesdale is praised by many in his community as a holy figure and thus a leader, however, he is just as much a sinner as Hester, since together they committed adultery. The fact that he hides this secret in order to preserve this false image of himself shows how much he cares about how he is viewed by society. While many would argue that he does this out of his own free will, there is no doubt that he feels pressure from society to keep his past hidden and maintain this holy facade. Once Dimmesdale dies, some townspeople “affirm that the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, on the very day when Hester Prynne first wore her ignominious badge, had begun a course of penance … by inflicting a hideous torture on himself” (Hawthorne 230). When they see the letter branded on Dimmesdale, they are shown how he has been tortured by himself and by Chillingworth, as a result of the agony society put him through in hiding his secret of having committed sin. This instance shows how, in a deterministic society, even those viewed as the
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a man who was both plagued and absorbed by the legacy of the Puritans in New England. He was related to John Hathorne, a Puritan judge during the infamous Salem Witch trials of 1692. In The Scarlet Letter, his fictional account of mid-17th century Boston presents an opportunity to examine different themes commonly associated with Puritans. Particularly the nature of sin, personal identity and the repression of natural urges are themes that appear repeatedly through the novel. While his account of this time period may not be completely historically accurate, it is indicative of the persistent thematic influence of Puritan culture on American and New England society.