Scarlet Letter Essay

Submitted By swang15
Words: 824
Pages: 4

The Physical Symptoms of Spiritual Ailment In the novel Scarlet Letter, a novel set in 17th century Puritan Massachusetts colony and revolves around the mortifying repercussions of adultery, author Nathaniel Hawthorne speaks through antagonist Roger Chillingworth that “A bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part” (Hawthorne 204). This quote means that visible human sickness is but a reflection of one’s inner state and that the human body, which is susceptible to emotional and spiritual suffering, displays physical symptoms that indicates an ailing inner psychological state. Some examples that demonstrate this are the psychological disorder of depression, and the victims that suffered from depression, including actor Heath Ledger. In the novel, Arthur Dimmesdale is the acclaimed town reverent. He is characterized as reverent, benevolent, and passionate, a man whose religious ideal and quality of preaching were much adored by the town. However, in a moment of weakness, Dimmesdale copulates with protagonist Hester Prynne, a married woman whose husband wasn’t around. After Hester gives birth to their sinful fruition, she does not give up her lover’s name and alone is punished and humiliated mercilessly in front of the entire town; with Hester’s punishment, and unable to confess to the public, Dimmesdale’s began his non-stop self pity, self disgust, and self torture both physically and psychologically that haunts his health for the next years of his life.
But how could the young minister say so, when, with every successive Sabbath, his cheek was paler and thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before—when it had now become a constant habit, rather than a casual gesture, to press his hand over his heart? Was he weary of his labours? Did he wish to die? (Hawthorne 182)
Upon meeting with physician Roger Chillingworth, the doctor diagnoses with celerity that Dimmesdale is suffering from more than the perfunctory insomnia or malnutrition; through those visible symptoms of constant fatigue, paleness of skin, shortness of breath, and pain in the chest, Chillingworth is able to identify the rudimentary cause as a sickly spiritual, inner state. (Hawthorne) Similar to the story of Dimmesdale, who often wastes away his own health by avoiding sleep, food, and even beating himself, prestigious Hollywood actor Heath Ledger lost his life during his combat with severe depression. Although his death, caused by drug overdoes, was ruled as accidental, it is incontrovertible that Mr. Ledger’s depressed psychological state contributed to his reckless behavior. His death demonstrates the fact that visible symptoms of a medical condition such as depression is very often indicates sickness in the inner, emotional part. An article reporting on his death concludes that he died from the abuse of “six kinds of painkillers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety drugs” (Barron). The cause of Ledger’s depression and reckless behavior can be largely attributed to his split with actress Michelle Williams, who took their 2-year-old daughter away from him. Subsequently, Ledger abused drugs in order to alleviate his emotional suffering, which resulted in his unfortunate death at the young age of 28. In looking at depression, the