Reverend Dimmesdale's Guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Guilt of Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter

 

God does not like the sin of adultery. He does not like lying. He does not like hypocrisy. There are two roads that one can choose. In the end, what may seem like the easy way may have far greater consequences than the hard way. Arthur Dimmesdale chose the easy path and learned that the pain of guilt is far greater than the pain of shame.

 

From the start, Dimmesdale did not want to live with the consequence of his sin. To begin with, he must of told Hester not to tell anyone about his sin, because on the scaffold, she will not tell anyone (pg. 64). Clearly, Dimmesdale was afraid of the justice and the shame that would follow. He thought that if no one knew, he could
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63). Here he says that it would be better for him to come down and stand on the scaffold than to keep in hiding. He even calls himself a hypocrite, but his concern for his reputation keeps him from doing the right thing. When Dimmesdale goes up on the scaffold, he must do it at night for fear of someone seeing him (pg. 136). This shows that his fear is still greater than the pain inside. Consequently, it will be too late when he finally does confess. "More than once, Mr. Dimmesdale had gone into the pulpit, with a purpose never to come down the steps until he should have spoken words like the above. More than once, he had cleared his throat, and drawn in the long, deep, and tremulous breath, which, when sent forth again, would come burdened with the black secret of his soul." (pg. 132). This again emphasizes that he wanted to change, but he is just too afraid of losing his reputation of a Godly pastor. Hester was able to bear the shame, and she is a better person for it, but Dimmesdale holds back because he does not see the big picture. It all boils down to his fear of losing his reputation.

 

Dimmesdale finally realizes that he has to change, but the sin had already done its damage. Referring to the dead man and the weeds on his grave, Chillingworth says, "They grew out of his heart, and typify, it may be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and which he had done better to confess during his lifetime." (pg. 120). He is
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