Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter Essay Example

Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Puritan values are strongly emphasized and utilized throughout the novel. One particular theme that remains prominent is the theme of sin. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is a main figure of sin in The Scarlet Letter since he is a sinner but refuses to accept his sins. In the setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale is a hypocritical figure because instead of admitting his sins to the community like a true minister, he hides the fact that he is a sinner and a liar which leads to his demise.

Dimmesdale is the epitome of a hypocrite because as a priest he teaches from the Bible but refuses to stand with his wife and daughter in public which results in his death. He preaches to the community about how horrible it is to sin, but he himself is a sinner that does not own up to it. A true priest would come clean to his congregation instead of shaming Hester Prynne for her sin which is equal to his. Pearl asks Dimmesdale, “‘Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow [on the scaffold at] noontide?’” (Hawthorne 230), and he refuses by saying, “‘Nay; not so, my little Pearl,’…‘not so, my child. I shall, indeed, stand with thy mother and thee one other days, but not to-morrow.’” This quote supports Dimmesdale as a hypocrite because even though he and Hester committed the same sin he continues to think of himself as higher than her so he blames her for his sin. He also fails to acknowledge Pearl at all because she is a product of their sin. Dimmesdale preaches to the community how horrible sin is but he fails to accept that he is a sinner as well by standing with Hester and Pearl on the scaffold. By the end of The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale finally realizes when it is too late that he should stand with his wife and daughter, but he ends up paying for his actions with his death. At the last scaffold scene, the state of the minister’s body is was nearing death but he proceeded to do his last sermon and confesses to the community. After he confesses his sin to the community, he bids farewell and breathes his las.

Dimmesdale is responsible for the majority of his actions. In the novel, he is aware of what will become of him if he keeps enduring his sin in secret but is not strong enough to confess. He tries to confess to the community by saying that he is a sinner, but instead the community praises him for showing humility. In order to purge his guilt, Dimmesdale scourges himself and fasts, causing his health to deteriorate. He also believes that he bears a greater burden than Hester and blames her for the pain he experiences. The quote, “‘All the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him,’’ reveals that the minister’s guilt is the result of his fear of taking responsibility his actions. Dimmesdale fears that if he admits his sin to the congregation, his holy image will be destroyed and he will lose his reputation. This causes Dimmesdale keep his guilt eating at him inside instead of coming clean to the community. He is responsible for the majority of his actions because it was his choice on choosing to come clean, but he chose to be a coward who runs away from taking responsibility for acts.

The townsfolk are partly responsible for forcing Dimmesdale into his position because they are one of the factors that cause his fear of being publicly shamed. In Puritan society, sin is taken very seriously and as a minister who preaches from the Bible, Dimmesdale is pressured to live by high morals. The townsfolk revere him as a “savior” figure because he tells the community that he is a sinner and is unworthy of their respect. When he says this, the worshippers feel a sense of unity and praise him for showing humility. An example of how the community views Dimmesdale is during the first scaffolding scene when a townsman says, “‘You must needs be a stranger in this region, friend’… ‘else you would surely have heard of Mistress Hester Prynne and her evil doings. She hath raised a great scandal, I promise you in godly Master Dimmesdale’s church’” (Hawthorne 93). The quote shows that Dimmesdale is seen as a holy figure in the community and is even deemed as “godly.” The community influences his actions because he is sensitive to the approval of the congregation and fears being publicly shamed because of his sins. Dimmesdale feels like he needs to conceal his secret in order to keep his the image of being the perfect Puritan minister. Since the community is so strongly opposed to sin, places such high emphasis on Puritan values, and highly respects Dimmesdale as a minister, he feels as if he needs to uphold his image. The pressure that the townsfolk put on Dimmesdale to be perfect show that they are partly influencing his actions.


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