Guilt In Scarlet Letter

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Guilt derived from sin may have a disastrous effect on the individual to the point that the person will be mentally and physically deteriorated; this is especially true if the sin is contained in the individual. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne creates a situation in which guilt and sin are driving forces. The characters in The Scarlet Letter greatly exhibit how guilt can affect the individual and how the individual will react to it. When Dimmesdale commits adultery with Hester Prynne, he keeps the secret bottled up inside of him while Hester gets punished. This fills him with an intense guilt that tears him apart. In spite of the fact that Dimmesdale still appears fine to the regular townsfolk, on the inside, Dimmesdale …show more content…
Dimmesdale grows weaker and weaker because of the enormous toll his guilt and secret are taking on him, but his demise is a gradual process. As each week goes by “his cheek was paler and thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before,---when it had now become a constant habit, rather than a casual gesture, to press his hand over his heart” (Hawthorne 111). Dimmesdale starts to constantly place “his hand over his heart” because he feels as if he should be punished the same way as Hester(by having a mark on his heart). In light of this belief, he continually carves a Scarlet Letter on his chest to torment himself into his rightful punishment just like Hester’s. Throughout the text, Hawthorne shows the reader that guilt will consume one so drastically that the affected individual will become physically weaker and feel as if guilt is the only factor in their life. This is only true if the shameful individual does not tell the truth, which Dimmesdale has not. Dimmesdale quite oftenly acknowledges his guilt in his words, without blatantly saying what his sin is. After guilt has overwhelmed him, Dimmesdale says to his himself, “I, your pastor, who you so reverence and trust, am utterly a …show more content…
No man “for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true”(Hawthorne 194). No man, meaning Dimmesdale, can live life with a public face and a private face for too long; this causes him to lose sight of who he really is. Therefore, Dimmesdale must make his secret available to the public so that his true sense of self does not get too polluted by his sin. To finally attempt to diminish the terrible effects that guilt is having on him, Dimmesdale releases the truth. While at the town square, Dimmesdale proceeded to limp onto the shaming scaffold and reveal what was hidden inside of his heart for many years. Dimmesdale, while on the scaffold, confesses, “He[Dimmesdale] bids you look again at Hester’s scarlet letter! He tells you, that, with all its mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast, and that even this, his own red stigma, is no more than the type of what has seared his inmost heart” (Hawthorne 228). By saying that Hester’s scarlet letter is just a shadow of his own “red stigma”, Dimmesdale demonstrates that his sin is far greater than her own and that he should have confessed sooner and been punished for it. He defines sin as full of “horror” and as something that

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