In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne’s act of adultery with Arthur Dimmesdale (Hawthorne 231) ultimately leads to negative and positive impacts on her life, including being isolated from everyone in town, being mocked and gossiped about, being more mature, and being more compassionate. One of the negative
Without an honorable reputation a person is not worthy of respect from others in their society. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the struggle to shake off the past is an underlying theme throughout the novel. Characters in this novel go through their lives struggling with trying to cope with the guilt and shame associated with actions that lost them their honorable reputation. Particularly, Hawthorne shows the lasting effect that sin and guilt has on two of the main characters in the book: Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale.
In the fictional novel The Scarlet Letter, the contrast between public and private truth is made quite clear. The three main characters of this book make perfect examples of this overarching theme. The characters in this book are the pastor Mr. Dimmesdale, the doctor Roger Chillingworth, and the adulteress Hester Prynne. First, Mr. Dimmesdale, who seems like devout clergyman to the public, has a big secret that could get him killed if it were made known. Next, Roger Chillingworth, a harmless doctor in the eyes of the public, is actually a man on an evil and vengeful mission. Finally, Hester Prynne’s public truth is that she is unimportant outcast while in private the complete opposite is true. In conclusion, Mr. Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and Hester Prynne all are prime examples of the theme, public versus private truth, that Hawthorne tries to convey in The Scarlet Letter.
Conflict can take on many forms in one’s life, such as conflict with self, with society, with religion and with others. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, develops the theme of conflict through the moral sin of Hester Prynne. Conflict is observed through Hester’s difficulties with the townspeople, challenges with the Puritan way of life, struggles with herself and tensions with Roger Chillingworth. Committing sin in the Puritan society leads to a great deal of conflicts.
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.
Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the popular, gifted, young clergyman and in which no expected, was Hester Prynne’s secretive lover. The citizens of Boston saw him as the perfect man, who could do no wrong. Little had they known, his sin was just as bad as Hester’s. Just like Black’s quote stated, Reverend Dimmesdale, acted on his light side, and used his sins to preach his best of sermons. Hawthorne stated on page 131, ‘To the high mountain-peaks of faith and sanctity he would have climbed…”. As many can observe, the young clergyman was a tremendous minister. He preached wonderful sermons and truly showed himself to be a man of God. Dimmesdale was a talented young man with a dark side that few people knew of. “…Mr. Dimmesdale was thinking of his grave, he questioned with himself whether the grass would ever grow on it, because an accursed thing must be there” (Hawthorne 131). This shows while he was preaching tremendous sermons, his health started to deteriorate, due to his inner guilt he was holding within himself. Perhaps if his lingering sin had not expended him, he would have been able live a happier, healthier life. However, unfortunately for him, the secret he was keeping was eating at him from the inside out and his darkness was prevailing. Dimmesdale’s sin of keeping the
Dimmesdale is the minster of the town, which means that he has several responsibilities and he is surrounded by the idea that he should live without sin to be an exemplar of the town. This creates pressure for Dimmesdale because he understands the severity of the sin he has committed. He feels like a failure to his followers and that he is unfit to be the minster anymore and that his life has no more meaning since he betrayed God. The narrator states “…on a pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him…”, which is exactly what Dimmesdale did. He refused to confess when Hester was on the scaffold which left him to hide is
Hawthorne expresses Dimmesdale’s emotions by portraying dark diction and suffering with phrases such as “miserable agony,” showing that Dimmesdale was unable to withhold his pain and agony that came with hiding his sin. “Miserable agony” portrays the feeling of pain and true suffering from internal causes, which in this case is his withholding his sin. The use of kinetic imagery also emphasizes the suffering of Dimmesdale. When Dimmesdale asks Hester to “twine thy strength about me,” he wants her to give him the strength to carry on. The connotation of “twine” indicates his weakness from his guilt, and the suffering that requires him to rely on others. This shows how Dimmesdale faces true pain and meaningful suffering because of his guilt and refusal to admit his sin, such as when he says that it is “for my own heavy sin,” showing how much it bears down on his soul. This guilt is also brought about when Dimmesdale suffers from physical and spiritual wounds from not admitting his guilt.
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 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne paints a picture of two equally guilty sinners, Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale, and shows how both characters deal with their different forms of punishment and feelings of remorse for what they have done. Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale are both guilty of adultery, but have altered ways of performing penance for their actions. While Hester must pay for her sins under the watchful eye of the world around her, Reverend Dimmesdale must endure the heavy weight of his guilt in secret. It may seem easier for Reverend Dimmesdale to live his daily life since he is not surrounded by people who shun
Society has unintentionally been guided by the same themes since the beginning of time. The recurring themes that are present in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter are still relevant in today’s society. When high school students and teachers claim that Hawthorne’s novel is archaic and should be removed from the curriculum, they are absolutely wrong. Hester Prynne, the main character of the novel, commits adultery and as punishment, has to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest for everyone to see. Throughout the novel, Hester is faced with obstacles such as the struggle between self and society and the burden of publicly suffering for her sins. Despite a substantial amount of time having passed since Puritan times, the themes that Hester Prynne had to experience are still pertinent. Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, is driven mad by his incessant need for revenge and in society today there are many occasions where people are plagued with the desire to seek vengeance. There are some instances in life where human nature takes over without people even realizing and revenge is one of them. Also, people are right when they say “history repeats itself” because some of these themes never go away. The Scarlet Letter takes place in the strict religious time of the 1600’s and although the book seems outdated and obsolete, the ideas inside are still relevant and therefore high school students should continue to read this work
To make a decision, one weighs the benefits and the downfalls, and concludes by judging the factors of each alternative. One's choice of whether to conform to society's demands or submit to personal impulses is difficult, especially under strenuous circumstances. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is a profound romance in which the characters must make such a decision. A reconciliation of the two forces is not seemingly feasible. Reliance of self consumes Hester Prynne, while denial of self engrosses her partner in the crime of adultery, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. The roles of Hester's daughter, Pearl, and her estranged husband, Roger Chillingworth, as individual beings are less evident than that of their impact on Hester and
As American-British novelist Mark Lawrence once said, “We’re built of contradictions, all of us. It’s those opposing forces that give us strength, like an arch, each block pressing the next”. The aforementioned contradictions are what lead to conflicts, and in turn growth and acceptance. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his revolutionary classic The Scarlet Letter, delves into the conflicts that the brave, yet infamous Hester Prynne has to overcome. As Hawthorne unfolds the unfortunate tragedy of Hester and her mysterious lover, the battles Hester has to face are multiple external and internal stimuli that bring about the growth of Hester as a character. The onerous obstacles that Hester must face through her life wear her out mentally, but only then can she truly grow and accept who she is.
The guilt that plagues Arthur Dimmesdale, leads to the climax of the novel, in which Dimmesdale overcomes his inner conflict. Throughout the entire book, Dimmesdale has struggled with trying to reveal what he has done. At first he is to cowardly to do this, but eventually Dimmesdale realizes the only way to redeem himself is to confess his sins and repent. Knowing it is the only way to redemption, Dimmesdale goes before the whole town, with Hester and Pearl, and reveals his sin to the people. Dimmesdale’s
Hawthorne uses the strong emotion of despair that overwhelms Arthur Dimmesdale, a beloved reverend in the town, to show how pretending to be the pure, sinless man that the town believes him to be causes him great pain, but by confessing he was relieved from his suffering. Romanticism encourages the acceptance of strong emotion, and embraces the free expression of feelings, unlike the Puritans, and in Dimmesdale’s case the emotions were mostly negative. Dimmesdale has been bearing the guilt of his sin for several years after his daughter Pearl’s birth, while Hester has been isolated and able to move on. This has enabled him to keep his religious position in the town, and his status with the townspeople. He attempts to continue the image society has of