Sin And Sin In The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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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 …show more content…
Only when alone with Hester is he able to feel at peace with himself and his actions; with others, he slips back into his hypocrite self. While with Hester, Dimmesdale manages to acknowledge that “[Chillingworth] has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!” (178). Here, he steps away from his religion, which decreed their acts a sin, to recognize that theirs acts weren’t truly wrong, taking a step to be true to himself about his bond with Hester. However, while looking at Pearl later, he contradicts this statement with his body language: “as Arthur Dimmesdale felt the child’s eyes upon himself, his hand–with that gesture so habitual as to have become involuntary–stole over his heart” (192). This is the action he does when he feels guilt from his sin. Thus, even though he previously claimed that he and Hester didn’t sin, he does not stay true to that statement because he continues to see Pearl as the product of their transgression and feel guilty. Already he is going back to viewing his act as a sin, and then denying and hiding that sin with his hand on his breast. Furthermore, once Dimmesdale learns about when he and Hester are to leave, his first reaction is to be grateful because “...he was to preach the Election Sermon …show more content…
Instead of really confessing to his crime, as he claims he will beforehand to Hester, he continues to speak vaguely with a speech that echoes his previous attempts to confess to the Puritans: “ ‘People of New England... ye, that have loved me!–ye, that have deemed me holy!–Behold me here, the one sinner of the world...Lo, the scarlet letter which Hester wears!...it hath cast a lurid gleam of awe and horrible repugnance roundabout her. But there stood one in the midst of you, at whose band of sin and infamy ye have not shuddered!’ ” (233). In this speech, Dimmesdale renounces Hester as a sinner, going back on their previous agreement that they didn’t sin, again. As well, Dimmesdale calls himself the only one to have sinned, and therefore raises himself above Hester, instead of revealing his sin to be with Hester. By doing so, Dimmesdale is distancing his sin from Hester’s sin to the Puritan community. He is also emphasizing how even the seemingly purest man can be the greatest sinner in the eyes of God, once again stressing the Puritans beliefs and highlighting his own zeal for the Puritan religion, just as he did in his earlier ‘confessions’. This all serves to make the Puritan community like him even more, as he knows it will.

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