Scarlet Letter Theme Of Guilt

Superior Essays
The Scarlet Letter Written in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne , The Scarlet Letter reflects on the themes of guilt, shame, and the self-inflicted physical and psychological pain that the characters felt as a result of their life choice. As the story begins, Hester Prynne is put on trial for the crime of adultery. Her husband, Roger Chillingworth had sent her to America ahead of him to prepare their home. However, Chillingworth was lost at sea and presumed dead. Trying to survive on her own in this new and frightening word, Hester soon became lonely and depressed. It was her depression that led her to seek comfort from her local minister Reverend Dimmesdale. Reverend Dimmesdale comes to her rescue, not knowing that he would only be causing …show more content…
Hester soon finds out that she is with child. She gives birth to a baby girl and names her Pearl. With a newborn baby in hand, it is impossible for Hester to hide her sin/ crime of adultery from the people in the community and she is arrested and put on trial. The Puritan court decides that Hester must always wear a public representation of her secret sin and orders that she wear a scarlet A on her chest for the rest of her life. As for Dimmesdale, his inability to vocalize his sins caused him internal anguish, physical pain, and self inflicted punishment. He is unable to confesses his sins until his final sermon “Election Day”. The death of Dimmesdale represents the death of human perfection and fits into dark romanticism. From the start of the novel, Dimmesdale’s refusal to confess his affair with Hester creates in him an internal struggle. In the beginning of the Scarlet Letter, a group of somber, judgmental looking people gather around the outside of the prison door. The door is oak and has been built with iron spikes, it looks as if it was made for the most dangerous criminal, however inside lies only a young mother and her infant child. The Puritans believed that sin should be actively sought out and exposed so that it can be punished publicly; …show more content…
Dimmesdale believed that through guiding Pearl to Heaven, Hester herself would find redemption for her sins. Conversely, he believed that since he concealed his guilt that there would be no such redemption for him. As a way to earn God’s favor and his redemption, he would spend prolonged periods of time fasting and praying. Hawthorne says, that Dimmesdale’s appearance was so changed that he was “more careworn and emaciated than as we described him at the scene of Hester’s public ignominy; and whether it were his failing health, or whatever the cause might be, his large dark eyes had a world of pain in their troubled and melancholy depth”(Hawthorne 98). Dimmesdale’s cowardice forces him to retreat more and more from society because he is afraid that the world would see the truth that Pearl was his child and the love he had for Hester in his eyes. However, when he has no other choice but come to Hester’s defense, he does rise to the occasion and defends her right and need to keep her child. Tragically, Dimmesdale’s self loathing will push him to the point where he gives up on life. He simply loses his will to live. Dimmesdale decides that if, “Providence should see fit to remove him, it would be because of his own unworthiness to perform its humblest mission here on earth (Hawthorne 104).

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    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.…

    • 1053 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    This lack of communication drastically affects relationships in a negative way by not working through the problems and troubles from the relationship. The effect of Hester’s destroyed relationships are shown when she speaks to Chillingworth about Dimmesdale and asserts, “‘There is no good for him, --no good for me--, ---no good for thee! There is no good for little Pearl’” (118)! Hester is frightened to communicate in her broken relationship with Chillingworth because of not speaking to each other in years, concealing secrets, and arranging revenge. Hester avoiding communication with Pearl causes her to think that Pearl is unusual when she is eager to learn about their social status, scarlet letter and minister, Dimmesdale.…

    • 1550 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Chillingworth sent hester to America, Chillingworth said he would meet her there. While waiting for her husband Hester had an affair with a puritan minister. She then had a baby girl named Pearl. Hester has committed adultery and now has to wear a red A on her chest to show the community her sin. All the Puritans show antipathy towards her and her baby, but hester disregards them and says the A has made her who she is and accepts that she will wear for the rest of her life.…

    • 438 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    As a way of being shamed, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a bright red “A” upon her breast at all times, because she committed adultery. After Hester moved to Boston without her husband, Roger Chillingworth who was living in England at the time, Hester meets Mr. Dimmesdale. Hester then becomes pregnant, with her daughter Pearl, and refuses to tell the community or the church who the father of her child is, “Madam Hester absolutely refuseth to speak” (Hawthorne 75). In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the author shows the reader that some perceived bad things, like the scarlet letter, can bring about happiness and joy in some individuals. Hawthorne shows that while the scarlet letter has caused many hardships for Hester, she is also…

    • 969 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Furthermore, Montag also begins to feel unfulfilled from his marriage. Bradbury writes, “And he remembered thinking then if she died, he was certain he wouldn’t cry” (44). From this quote, Bradbury reveals to the audience that Montag lacks a real connection to his wife, and is simply playing the role of husband. However, Montag desires this sort of connection, as revealed shortly afterwards. Bradbury states, “For it would be the dying of an unknown… and it was suddenly so very wrong that he had begun to cry, not at death but at the thought of not crying at death…” (44).…

    • 1617 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Context: As the novel progresses, Dimmesdale becomes more weak and sickly. He is physically and mentally exhausted. Evidence/Elaboration: 1. Dimmesdale fantasizes saying “I, your pastor, whom you so reverence and trust, am utterly a pollution and a lie!” (Hawthorne 115) - Dimmesdale’s profession requires him to remain strong and holy to his following. However, the church does not recognize the faults of all men, leaders included, and Dimmesdale cannot be honest to his congregation about his sin; he fears his reputation and life purpose will be lost in a cloud of…

    • 1289 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He is suffering within and is slowly dying from the internal pain of love. Throughout this novel, Chillingworth constantly tries to harm Dimmesdale and learn what he is hiding from the townspeople. Dimmesdale is a coward and he is afraid of letting the truth be known. Dimmesdale exclaimed,”Then, and there, before the judgment-seat, thy mother, and thou, and I, must stand together! But the daylight of this world shall not see our meeting”(Hawthorne 121).…

    • 953 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    By the adultery, she commits the town throws her away and locks her up. After many years in prison, Hester finally has her baby and names her Pearl. To represent of Hester’s sin, after prison she must wear the letter “A” on her chest and stand on the public scaffold, where you would be brought up to be publicly shamed for a crime. When Hester reaches freedom, the townspeople express curiosity about one thing: who the father was. The town wants both the mother and father of Pearl to be in the scaffold and be shamed for their wrong-doing.…

    • 938 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    This lively unfairness develops throughout the book, as Hester’s long gone husband arrives in secret. Mr. Dimmesdale commits covered self-harm in regret of his adultery with Hester. While the public shame on Hester’s breast, the Scarlet Letter, gains a new meaning on every page. And, in the darkness, the revenge of the mysterious…

    • 1162 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open thriumph over the evil within thee and sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him- who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself-the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips! (Hawthorne, 73). ' Dimmesdale is preaching to Hester that their god made it destined that Hester should be publicly humiliated as a cost for her uncivil desires. Although they seem to be doing the same to Dimmesdale, but he refuses to accept it.…

    • 1158 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays