Guilt And Corruption In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Improved Essays
Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter tells a story of guilt, shame, and hardship. Through the book, he writes of two main characters ' lives. A common theme throughout the very different individuals ' stories is; one should always be true to others as he would be to himself. The author illustrates the corrosion and corruption that occurs when you put up a mask to the public, while also displaying the counter, a freeing life of accepting who you are. Hawthorne contrasts the two outcomes by describing the peaceful life lived out by Hester Prynne, an admitted adulteress, and the guilty life of Arthur Dimmesdale. In order to portray the hard yet liberating life of someone who is very honest with themselves and others, Hawthorne shares the …show more content…
The puritan reverend and father of Hester’s child, Pearl, makes the decision to hide his sin from his community in order to prevent members of the church from losing faith. Unfortunately, this strategy does not go according to plan and forces himself to feel guilty for the majority of his adult life. Not revealing his crime “appears at first to be Dimmesdale 's luck escaping the fate that Hester suffers turns out to have caused him insufferable pain" (Swisher 61). Lying to his congregation corrupts Dimmesdale’s image of himself because he feels as if he is being hypocritical and not reflecting the actions of a Christian, let alone a minister. He becomes extremely physically and emotionally ill because of his inner demons. The seven long years of secrecy creates an extremely depressed and distraught Dimmesdale. Hawthorne illustrates the Reverend’s state best when he writes, “Poor, miserable man! What right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime?” (Hawthorne 134). Dimmesdale affects his emotional health, his severe depression, by not exposing his sin, but the author also shares a time where he, “tortured, but could not purify, himself” (132). Dimmesdale punished himself in an extremely violent fashion in the passage, of which Hawthorne does not share. He is guilt-ridden because of the sin, but he also feels poorly about letting Hester suffer through her public shame without him and putting up a false image of himself to the public. Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale feels so terribly about the situation, he has to live with a so-called doctor, Roger Chillingworth to give him the medical attention that he needs, confirming that the shame had made him physically ill. At the end of the novel, Dimmesdale confesses, however he dies shortly after his confession to show that because Dimmesdale waits almost a decade to share his sin, it still kills

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    But instead of seeing the guilt and corruption as how Hawthorne wishes, in his works the characters misunderstand the guilt and the reasons behind them (Leary 74). He also uses guilt as a consequence of gain knowledge and growing up (“Nathaniel Hawthorne” 100). The minister’s guilt separates him from society and while people try to forgive him, like his wife, he just rejects it and only lets god forgive him (“Isolation and Community”). Because of his guilt the dying want to see him in the hopes of being relieved of the thoughts of their death (Leary 74). While the minister showed his guilt it made him isolated from society.…

    • 1261 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    In comparison, both men have secrets. Being a Reverend, Dimmesdale’s secret seems to be worse just because he is a Reverend. This secret could destroy his reputation because after he committed adultery he comes to find out that Hester is pregnant with his child. Arthur Dimmesdale has a terrible secret and is frightened to tell anyone since the town holds him in “such high regard” (). After this dilemma he was seen as a “withdrawn” man…

    • 1048 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    However, on a deeper level Dimmesdale actually experienced a worse type of punishment that Hester would ever know. He experienced the psychological punishment that forever haunted his thoughts. He experiences self-mutilation so he is able to relieve his guilt. This constant torment drives him to do questionable acts on his health, where some people even claim that he branded his own “A” on his chest as a form repentance. People viewed the A as “ inflicting a hideous torture on himself.” (228).…

    • 1374 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Hawthorne says, “He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith he tortured, but could not purify, himself” (Hawthorne 115). Dimmesdale’s guilt drives him to physically harm himself to try to make his feeling of shame go away. He has become senseless because he is hiding his sin from the community and…

    • 800 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    Dimmesdale, the man, that committed adultery with Hester Prynne has a different type of punishment in some ways worse and others better. Dimmesdale's punishment is self inflicted through his own personal shame, self alienation and torture. Dimmesdale punishes himself privately, “Under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge.”(132) The town does not know about Dimmesdale's secret. Dimmesdale is punishing himself for the sin he committed but ,”Could not purify, himself”(132). The guilt Dimmesdale feels throughout the novel deteriorates Dimmesdale mentally, “His brain often reeled.” Dimmesdale's self inflicted torture deteriorate his sanity drastically when ,”Visions seemed to fit before him,”(132).…

    • 995 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The Reverend’s own actions sicken him further; Arthur Dimmesdale “loathed his miserable self” enough to subject himself to torture(137). He keeps himself awake with night vigils and “plied his own shoulders” with a scourge(141). HIs self-inflicted psychological abuse leads to the horrifying physical harm. Reverend Dimmesdale feels guilty and ashamed for his sin which results in a longing for retribution. He temporarily satisfies this reprisal by his private torments.…

    • 838 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale allows his guilt to consume him because he is unable to deal with it, as he physically deteriorates his mind is weakening, it plays tricks on him causing hallucinations and torturous visions. Hester demonstrates her strength by her ability to bear the shame of confessing her sin and wearing the scarlet letter, the way she deals with her…

    • 1098 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He feels the guilt of having left Hester to deal with all of the shame and humiliation alone. One of the ways his guilt is expressed is the night in which he stood on the same place that Hester did seven years before. This shows his guilt because it shows what he has wanted to do, but has not been able to. He felt guilty of having Hester go through such difficult moments alone when he was also part of the sin which they both committed. He felt that they should both share the same troubles, instead of him living peacefully while she was seen as the women who had cheated on her husband and carried the scarlet letter.…

    • 1707 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, both Dimmesdale and Hester have grievously sinned in the eyes of the Puritan community. However, while Hester lives with her guilt publicly displayed in the form of the scarlet letter and Pearl, Dimmesdale hides his sin from the community and tries to continue as their saintly pastor. Yet, this concealment is not without consequences, as Dimmesdale suffers from horrible guilt as he denies his sin from his community, and thus denies himself forgiveness for his sin. Finally resolving to tell the truth on his deathbed, Dimmesdale dies after triumphantly defeating Chillingworth, his personal tormentor. However, though Dimmesdale manages to overcome Chillingworth, he further succumbs to his own internal…

    • 1799 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Dimmesdale. Arguably, the main story of the novel is his story and his struggle with his sin and the guilt of letting hester take the fall without being by her side. Clearly, being a Reverend and having this secret to which he is unable to confess takes a toll on his weak and fragile psyche. Hawthorne frequently refers to his disease and how “his intellectual gifts, his moral perceptions, his power of experiencing and communicating emotion, were kept in a state of preternatural activity by the prick and anguish of his daily life” (Hawthorne 212). His suffering strengthened his mind, but it also weakened his body.…

    • 1079 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays