Dimmesdale has peculiar night activities. Hidden from the public eye, Dimmesdale practices mortification of the flesh in his “secret closet” as his way of coping with his guilty conscious. “In Mr. Dimmesdale 's secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge. [Dimmesdale] plied it on his own shoulders; laughing bitterly at himself the while, and smiting so much the more pitilessly, because of that bitter laugh” (132).
The poor minister suffered from unbearable guilt and shame at having consciously committed a crime and worst, not publicly confessing his sins as Puritan law requires. A guilty conscious burdens him; relief can only be found in severe punishment. Dimmesdale feels this is necessary since his crime would have gone unpunished otherwise. He believes himself to be more despicable now that he has kept the public and his devoted followers in the dark about his own sins. Worse, he thinks himself a hypocrite for deceiving people into thinking he embodies goodness and purity. Therefore, as an act of penance, Dimmesdale practiced mortification of the flesh within his secret closet. The minister vigorously fasts, whips himself with a scourge, and has constant vigils. He …show more content…
Of course, no one except his God sees his penance, yet Dimmesdale hopes his suffering will count toward something.
No one was aware of the minister’s crimes, so they remained unpunished. Dimmesdale felt the only way to resolve his crimes was by repentance and absolution. Therefore, he punished himself to show how regretful he was for having sinned and express his desire to be forgiven. Dimmesdale yearns to find a reason to forgive himself, but being familiar with what is considered moral and ethical, he found it difficult to excuse his actions when he knew the sinfulness of his affair and hypocrisy; thus, attaining purification seemed impossible to him. His