The Scarlett Letter Essay

Submitted By crazicocaloka
Words: 956
Pages: 4

The possession of guilt can be very overpowering, especially when living in the Puritan era. As a result, guilt can drive people to commit acts they would normally think of as being inconceivable. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlett Letter, characters have to live with some form of guilt. When faced with guilt, a people can either face their actions or run from them. Hawthorne reveals the evils that emerge from characters when they conceal their sins. As a result, Hawthorne shows how characters such as Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and Hester Prynn realize that guilt without confession ultimately leads to negative consequences. Arthur Dimmesdale, a devout puritan minister, is a prominent character who harbors guilt far more greatly than other characters. Dimmesdale is guilty of committing adultery with Hester. However, he does not reveal this to anyone in fear of losing his respected status in the community. He keeps this secret to himself and, as a result, is physically and mentally tortured. Physically, Dimmesdale inflicts pain on himself to relieve the psychological pain from the overpowering sense of wrongdoing. Over the years, Dimmesdale becomes weak, pale, and feeble due to the guilt that has been building up inside of him. Psychologically, Dimmesdale suffers from visions and constant questions from Chillingworth as a reminder of what he had done. “Dimmesdale... whose public identity isolates him from himself and sentences him to a crippling guilt.”(Baker 1) Dimmesdale is well known for delivering powerful sermons on themes such as guilt and sin. Therefore, his public image is a powerful minister who looks down upon people who commit sins in the society. However, he has committed a sin himself and as a result, feels isolated from his true identity. Physically, Dimmesdale develops a habit of putting a hand over his chest where the scarlet letter lies on Hester's chest. Any slight alarm or sudden accident causes him to do this. “Dimmesdale...pride, like his scarlet letter, lies beneath and gives form to his mask of saintliness.” (Baker 2) The reason Dimmesdale refuses to reveal his truth is because of his pride of being a minister. His well respected status is an accomplishment that is very dear to him and he would rather have his status than relieve himself of his guilt. As his guilt increases, so does the power of his sermons. “Weak and proud, false and efficacious, the minister thus stumbles even deeper and ever more self consciously into thickets of hypocrisy.” (Canadas 4) As Dimmesdale relays information on how sin is frowned upon in society, he himself has committed a sin. This gives Dimmesdale the personality of a hypocrite. Another character who lives with guilt is Roger Chillingworth. He is the husband of Hester Prynne who was thought to have passed away at sea. Chillingworth returns to the community in which Hester lives, only to find out that Hester has a child that was not his. He then changes his name to Roger Chillingworth and settles in the community as a doctor. Chillingworth's sin was one of secrecy and one of revenge. "...mine was the first wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth into an unnatural relation with my decay." (Hawthorne 131) He feels as though he never loved Hester and states that he did wrong by marrying a young woman who did not reciprocate love in the first place. Therefore, he does not blame Hester for having a child when he was not present. Instead, he blames the father of the child. Chillingworth finds out that Arthur Dimmesdale is the father of Hester's child and he seeks revenge. "My finger, pointed at this man, would have hurled him from his pulpit into a dungeon, —thence, peradventure, to the gallows!" (Hawthorne 95) Chillingworth had gained a high