The Scarlet Letter-Arthur Dimmesdale

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The Scarlet Letter-Arthur Dimmesdale

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a main character in Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, proves to be a sinner against man,
against God and most importantly against himself because he has
committed adultery with Hester Prynne, resulting in an illegitimate
child, Pearl. His sinning against himself, for which he ultimately paid the
price of death, proved to be more harmful and more destructive than this
sin of the flesh, and his sin against God. Socrates said, “Know
thyself,” and Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” If Reverend
Dimmesdale had been true to himself he certainly wouldn’t have suffered
as much as he did. What drove Dimmesdale to hold in his self-condemning
truth? To answer this, it’s necessary to examine the whole character of
Reverend Dimmesdale while explaining his sinful situation.
Dimmesdale is not ignorant, he is very well educated. As
Hawthorne states, “…Rev. Mr. Dimmesdale; a young clergyman who had
come from one of the great English universities, bringing all the learning
of the age into our wild forestland. His eloquence and religious fervor had
already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession.” (Hawthorne
72) This man’s morals had, until the adultery, been high. He is very
spiritual because on top of being of the Puritan faith, he is a minister of
the word of God. Throughout most of the novel, Rev. Dimmesdale is
forced to hide his guilt of being Hester’s partner in sin. When in reality,
he is not being forced by anyone, but himself, for he is the one who
chooses not to reveal his secret to the town. Dimmesdalehas a concealed
sin that is, eating at him. He just doesn’t have the courage to admit his
wrongs. He seems to be a coward during these seven years of living with
guilt. There is a scene in chapter 3 where Rev. Dimmesdale states,
“Hester Prynne…If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy
earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I
charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow –sinner and fellow-
sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for,
believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and
stand there beside thee on thy 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-yea compel him as it were-to add hypocrisy to sin?”
(73) In this scene it is almost as if we see Dimmesdale speaking as a
hypocrite, himself!
Dimmesdale portrays himself very ironically. He is a very
well respected reverend and yet, has, for the last 7 years, worked on
preaching the word of God, especially while he urges the congregation to
confess openly to repent unto God. While, in reality, Dimmesdale is the
one whoneeds a clean conscious. He feels like he needs to confess not
only to the town but also too himself. Halfway through the novel
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
Hawthorne states, “They fancied him the mouthpiece of Heaven’s
messages of wisdom, rebuke, and love. In their eyes, the very ground on
which he trod was sanctified.” ( 139 )
How else can the reverend live without revealing his identity? He
has been doing it for seven years, and it must be hard for him, mentally
and physically. Mentally, his whole body shuts down because he cannot
take it anymore, even though he does not give in to confess yet. He has
become emaciated because he has let the sin against himself churn inside
and on the

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