The Suffering of Arthur Dimmesdale in "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Guilt is a very strong emotion, and it can take a merciless toll on a person. For most people, guilt is often a short-lived feeling because we confess why we feel guilty and get it off of our chests. However, this is hardly the case for Arthur Dimmesdale, the father of Hester Prynne’s child in the novel The Scarlet Letter. Dimmesdale does not confess that he has committed a sin with Hester, and for a brutal seven whole years, he withholds his guilt inside of him. Throughout all of that time, he reverts to self-punishment in the form of fasting, consecutive, sleepless vigils, and relentless studying of the Bible. The public viewed all of these activities as noble acts of devotion to God, and they only admired him more and more. This public …show more content…
He went on to physically harm himself, something that originated in Roman faith. In this passage from the novel, found on page 111, we see just what Dimmesdale is doing to himself instead of confessing his sin: “In Mr. Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge. Oftentimes, this Protestant and Puritan divine had plied it on his own shoulders...” Not only is the reverend emotionally suffering from the grief and guilt he’s holding inside himself, but he is also causing himself to suffer constant physical pain. Dimmesdale continues to punish himself and soon his practices begin to become apparent in his features. He always has his hand clasped over his feeble heart and at all times, he appears to be ghostly pale and sickly. As the public that Dimmesdale preaches to notices that their beloved reverend is ailing more with each passing week, they attribute his condition to his perpetual devotion to the church. They had no idea that his own self-pity and his horrible feeling of shame was making him torture himself so that he looked the way he did. They viewed his acts as noble acts of devotion to God and looked upon him almost as a saint. This public veneration sickened Dimmesdale because it only reminded him of his dark secret and made him realize that he was
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