The Importance Of Good And Evil In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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“Good” and “evil” do not exist. There are noble ones who use these abstract ideals to help society stay afloat, but often times they’re only in place to assert dominance and perpetual fear over others. 19th-century author, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter analyzes a system that follows the latter. In the book, we’re introduced to Arthur Dimmesdale, a respected minister, who, in a moment of passion, fathers a child with a married woman, Hester Prynne. Committing this sin causes constant distress for the minister, despite all that good he has, and continues to do. Hawthorne’s personification of Dimmesdale illustrates the detrimental effects man-made institutions enforcing “right” and “wrong” have on people.

Hawthorne emphasizes
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Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him--yea, compel him, as it were--to add hypocrisy to sin?" That Dimmesdale mentions hypocrisy and “to hide a guilty heart throughout life” suggests that the Reverend knows that he can’t ever actually forgive himself, and needs to confess but is too afraid to do the deed himself. In reality, Dimmesdale has been trained to feel this way because of his close connection to Puritan society and God. This is shown later on, towards the middle of the book, when Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the …show more content…
After Chillingworth decides to go along with Hester and Dimmesdale, he sees that no matter what, he must pay for his sin. His final sermon is delivered, but the Reverend comes clean, and in doing so, takes his own life. Before his death he ushers "bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy" in chapter 23. That Dimmesdale uses the paradox “triumphant ignominy” suggests that Dimmesdale finally feels at peace, despite being publicly shamed. Years of Puritan influence have shaped him into a man unable to find peace, and in the end, costs him his life. It’s how each character responded to their sin that caused their eventual situation. Hester wore her punishment on her chest, choosing to ignore the claims of the townspeople, realizing that the Puritan establishment is flawed and that no townsperson deserves a real say on her predicament. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in shaping the mind of said townspeople, though, and therefore is forced into a role of a perpetual hypocrite. His guilt is hidden, only coming out in sudden, violent, bursts, like his suicide. Because he put himself on a pedestal, he couldn’t allow himself to be human and make mistakes. Those who hold themselves up higher than others deny themselves the moral flexibility real life

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