Hypocrisy In The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Abraham Lincoln once defined a hypocrite as: “the man who murdered both his parents… pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.” There has been no shortage of hypocrisy throughout history; and all the same for literature. The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is rich with characters harboring this undesirable trait. Characters such as Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale are motivated to act hypocritically by vengeance, fear, penitence, and even hypocrisy itself. Hester Prynne’s estranged husband, known in The Scarlet Letter as Roger Chillingworth, acts hypocritically on behalf of vengeance. After arriving in The New World Chillingworth is faced with his wife Hester being publicly shamed and holding a …show more content…
He is deathly afraid that his congregation will find out that he is a ‘fraud’, rather than the holy man that they think him to be. He is afraid of the punishment he will receive when the strict Puritans of Boston discover that he hid the fact that he is the father of Hester Prynne’s daughter after seven years had passed. The Reverend had always harbored a nervous temperament; however, after the public shaming of Hester Prynne this characteristic of his personality became much more prominent. He often would put his hand over his heart [unbeknownst to the townspeople that he was touching the Scarlet Letter upon his breast] (Hawthorne 178). Dimmesdale was too frightened by the recourse of his actions to come clean to the people of …show more content…
Oftentimes on Sundays Mr. Dimmesdale would climb onto the pulpit and face his congregation with the sole purpose of revealing to the Puritans he knew so well of his sins. He would tell the townspeople that he was the vilest of all; that he was unworthy and an abomination (Hawthorne 137). This was cast upon all but deaf ears. The congregation thought that clearly this holy man could do no wrong, and that his thinking of self loathing made him all the more praiseworthy. The Minister believed that if he ever managed to fully admit his wrongdoings and have the congregation believe him, they would feel that his sin had passed to them through believing for all this time that he was a holy and deserving man. On the other hand, the Church might forgive him; they knew what good he could do and how he helped people the way no other minister had before, that they would let his sins go; never giving Dimmesdale the penitence he needs and also possibly defiling the faith of the Puritans and bringing the congregation down with the undeserving

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