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Scarlet Letter 8 Essay, Research Paper

Hawthorne’s novel describes the life of an adulteress, Hester Prynne, who is shunned by her judgmental community. She gave birth to her daughter Pearl out of wedlock, while her partner of iniquity, (Hawthorne 59) a minister named Arthur Dimmesdale, never revealed his black secret of their affair. Although Hester suffered public ridicule, the minister suffered no immediate consequence. However, guilt has a way of killing a person silently. In the end, Dimmesdale’s black secret had a greater negative impact on him than Pearl, who was the consequence of sin, had on Hester. This is because Dimmesdale chose to hide his sin from the church but Hester had no way to conceal her sin. Dimmesdale watched Hester and Pearl take all the blame and ridicule for the lover s sins, and he avoided his family in order to preserve his image.

Although Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale had numerous opportunities to confess the truth of his sin to his church, he chose to hold the black secret inside himself. On the other hand, Hester Prynne could not hide the truth because Pearl and the scarlet letter A were open confessions of her sin. Hester had committed adultery and she felt that God, as a direct consequence of the sin, had given her a child, whose place was on that same dishonored bosom. (82) Pearl was sent from God as a reminder to Hester and the Puritan community of her sin each and every day. However, Hester chose not to tell who Pearl’s father was. Pearl was the scarlet letter in another form, the scarlet letter endowed with life. (88) Pearl and the scarlet letter were one in the same. Both represented Hester’s sin she carried with her day after day. Both brought shame to her life. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. The embarrassment Hester felt could not have exceeded Dimmesdale’s guilty conscience. He felt ashamed for not confessing to the church congregation that he had played a large role in the horrific sin. He had several chances to confess his black secret, but he did not do so. With each passing failure to disclose the truth, he grew more and more dark and disgraced. One example was when Dimmesdale spoke to Hester on the scaffold, which was a high platform located in the middle of the town. Dimmesdale tried to persuade her to announce her partner in this sinful act. When she refused to acknowledge him, he was extremely relieved. He quickly said, She will not speak! Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak! (64)

Dimmesdale was also given an opportunity to confess at Governor Bellingham’s estate, when they were deciding whether Hester should be allowed to raise Pearl. Dimmesdale did influence their decision, but never once mentioned Pearl was his daughter. After several failures to be honest, the minister was certain that it must be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, than to cover it up in his heart. He remained silent and the black secret slowly ate away at his soul, transforming him from a young, lively minister to a coward.

Hester suffered greatly from the community’s knowledge of Pearl as an elfish child, (162) but she endured far less agony than Dimmesdale, who became seriously ill, because he watched his love and his child take the blame for a sin he helped commit. The Puritan community was severely cruel towards Hester and Pearl. When Hester and Pearl walked into the market place, the townspeople formed a circle around Hester and Pearl and viciously mocked them. At other times, the Puritan children allowed them to pass and then ridiculed them. Hester grew to dread children because they were exactly like their parents, crude, judgmental hypocrites. A different torture was felt in the watching eyes of strangers. The strangers curiously stared at the scarlet letter upon her bosom, so that Hester could scarcely refrain from covering the symbol with her hand. (165) Yet, Hester never did. She allowed the scarlet letter to burn deep into her soul. The Puritans not only harassed Hester and Pearl in the market place, but also at their cottage. Children went to the cottage and watched Hester and Pearl garden or sew, and if they glanced up, the children ran away. Such actions made Hester and Pearl feel different from everyone else.

The people of the community, through their harsh judgments and ridiculing remarks, caused Hester and her daughter great suffering, but Dimmesdale’s torment was immeasurable. His choice to keep his black secret hidden deep within his soul resulted in the deterioration of his health both mental and physical. With every successive Sabbath, his cheeks grew paler and thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before. (132) Each time he stood before the congregation and delivered a sermon, he grew weaker and more ashamed. Dimmesdale was allowing the love of his life, Hester, and his beautiful daughter to take all the hatred and contempt for their sin. As an outward sign of his guilt and mental anguish, pressing his hand over his heart had now become a constant habit, rather than a casual gesture. This particular gesture represented the inner agony that Dimmesdale faced each day, an inner agony that was beyond any misery he had ever experienced. He suffered under a bodily disease, if it be the souls disease it gnawed and tortured him, by some black trouble of the heart. (126) Dimmesdale had a disease, a disease of the heart. His heart was broken. He had made an immoral decision to commit adultery, and then magnified this decision when he chose to hide his sin. Dimmesdale’s selfish behavior ultimately caused his death. He became so ill by the time he confessed his sin that his health could not be recovered. His soul was already dead, murdered by his own weakness in character.

Dimmesdale had a choice. He chose his congregation over the woman he loved and his daughter, in order to remain the most respected man in his community. This was a choice that caused him to suffer much more than Hester and Pearl did. Fortunately, Hester and Pearl had each other to love and confide in. This is another reason Hester and Pearl s suffering was not as great as Dimmesdale s. Pearl always ran about, picking flowers, smiling and laughing happily, while Hester watched with content eyes. Hester talked with never any companion, but one small child, Pearl. She never traveled, but with Pearl. Hester never laughed, but with Pearl, nor cried but with Pearl. The only family they had was each other. Together Hester and Pearl faced many obstacles. They were condemned together, rejected together, mocked together and judged together. Through all of these trials, Hester and Pearl then grew stronger.

In contrast, Dimmesdale grew weaker. He felt he had not a soul to share with. He could not talk to Hester and Pearl, for fear his black secret would be uncovered. He was alone in the world, with no one to confide in. Dimmesdale finally chose to risk his reputation and arranged to see Hester and Pearl in the forest. After Hester took off the scarlet letter and after Dimmesdale agreed to abandon his false position in his church, they were both bathed in sunlight. They had a glorious time talking and consoling each other. However, their joy quickly ended when seeing Pearl reminded them of their sin. The two lovers had to face the truth that as long as Dimmesdale kept the secret of their affair, they could never be together.

With the black secret buried deep within his soul, Dimmesdale definitely suffered more than Hester and Pearl suffered. Dimmesdale hid his sin from the congregation, watched Hester and Pearl receive all the punishment for their sin, and lived in torment and solitude in order to maintain his image. The Puritans judged Hester as an awful, unrighteous person, when they too were unrighteous. They were trying to play God. In the Puritan society, Dimmesdale failed to tell the truth, because of this he hurt many other people in his path.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to convey the message that everyone sins and those who judge sinners are hypocrites because they themselves sin. The author also points out that if a person lies, it not only affects the liar, but everyone he interacts with. A domino effect occurs. In addition, Hawthorne revealed through his novel that not a man, woman, or child, can go through life without making some mistakes. As the Bible states in Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

Hawthorne’s novel describes the life of an adulteress, Hester Prynne, who is shunned by her judgmental community. She gave birth to her daughter Pearl out of wedlock, while her partner of iniquity, (Hawthorne 59) a minister named Arthur Dimmesdale, never revealed his black secret of their affair. Although Hester suffered public ridicule, the minister suffered no immediate consequence. However, guilt has a way of killing a person silently. In the end, Dimmesdale’s black secret had a greater negative impact on him than Pearl, who was the consequence of sin, had on Hester. This is because Dimmesdale chose to hide his sin from the church but Hester had no way to conceal her sin. Dimmesdale watched Hester and Pearl take all the blame and ridicule for the lover s sins, and he avoided his family in order to preserve his image.

Although Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale had numerous opportunities to confess the truth of his sin to his church, he chose to hold the black secret inside himself. On the other hand, Hester Prynne could not hide the truth because Pearl and the scarlet letter A were open confessions of her sin. Hester had committed adultery and she felt that God, as a direct consequence of the sin, had given her a child, whose place was on that same dishonored bosom. (82) Pearl was sent from God as a reminder to Hester and the Puritan community of her sin each and every day. However, Hester chose not to tell who Pearl’s father was. Pearl was the scarlet letter in another form, the scarlet letter endowed with life. (88) Pearl and the scarlet letter were one in the same. Both represented Hester’s sin she carried with her day after day. Both brought shame to her life. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. The embarrassment Hester felt could not have exceeded Dimmesdale’s guilty conscience. He felt ashamed for not confessing to the church congregation that he had played a large role in the horrific sin. He had several chances to confess his black secret, but he did not do so. With each passing failure to disclose the truth, he grew more and more dark and disgraced. One example was when Dimmesdale spoke to Hester on the scaffold, which was a high platform located in the middle of the town. Dimmesdale tried to persuade her to announce her partner in this sinful act. When she refused to acknowledge him, he was extremely relieved. He quickly said, She will not speak! Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak! (64)

Dimmesdale was also given an opportunity to confess at Governor Bellingham’s estate, when they were deciding whether Hester should be allowed to raise Pearl. Dimmesdale did influence their decision, but never once mentioned Pearl was his daughter. After several failures to be honest, the minister was certain that it must be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, than to cover it up in his heart. He remained silent and the black secret slowly ate away at his soul, transforming him from a young, lively minister to a coward.

Hester suffered greatly from the community’s knowledge of Pearl as an elfish child, (162) but she endured far less agony than Dimmesdale, who became seriously ill, because he watched his love and his child take the blame for a sin he helped commit. The Puritan community was severely cruel towards Hester and Pearl. When Hester and Pearl walked into the market place, the townspeople formed a circle around Hester and Pearl and viciously mocked them. At other times, the Puritan children allowed them to pass and then ridiculed them. Hester grew to dread children because they were exactly like their parents, crude, judgmental hypocrites. A different torture was felt in the watching eyes of strangers. The strangers curiously stared at the scarlet letter upon her bosom, so that Hester could scarcely refrain from covering the symbol with her hand. (165) Yet, Hester never did. She allowed the scarlet letter to burn deep into her soul. The Puritans not only harassed Hester and Pearl in the market place, but also at their cottage. Children went to the cottage and watched Hester and Pearl garden or sew, and if they glanced up, the children ran away. Such actions made Hester and Pearl feel different from everyone else.

The people of the community, through their harsh judgments and ridiculing remarks, caused Hester and her daughter great suffering, but Dimmesdale’s torment was immeasurable. His choice to keep his black secret hidden deep within his soul resulted in the deterioration of his health both mental and physical. With every successive Sabbath, his cheeks grew paler and thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before. (132) Each time he stood before the congregation and delivered a sermon, he grew weaker and more ashamed. Dimmesdale was allowing the love of his life, Hester, and his beautiful daughter to take all the hatred and contempt for their sin. As an outward sign of his guilt and mental anguish, pressing his hand over his heart had now become a constant habit, rather than a casual gesture. This particular gesture represented the inner agony that Dimmesdale faced each day, an inner agony that was beyond any misery he had ever experienced. He suffered under a bodily disease, if it be the souls disease it gnawed and tortured him, by some black trouble of the heart. (126) Dimmesdale had a disease, a disease of the heart. His heart was broken. He had made an immoral decision to commit adultery, and then magnified this decision when he chose to hide his sin. Dimmesdale’s selfish behavior ultimately caused his death. He became so ill by the time he confessed his sin that his health could not be recovered. His soul was already dead, murdered by his own weakness in character.

Dimmesdale had a choice. He chose his congregation over the woman he loved and his daughter, in order to remain the most respected man in his community. This was a choice that caused him to suffer much more than Hester and Pearl did. Fortunately, Hester and Pearl had each other to love and confide in. This is another reason Hester and Pearl s suffering was not as great as Dimmesdale s. Pearl always ran about, picking flowers, smiling and laughing happily, while Hester watched with content eyes. Hester talked with never any companion, but one small child, Pearl. She never traveled, but with Pearl. Hester never laughed, but with Pearl, nor cried but with Pearl. The only family they had was each other. Together Hester and Pearl faced many obstacles. They were condemned together, rejected together, mocked together and judged together. Through all of these trials, Hester and Pearl then grew stronger.

In contrast, Dimmesdale grew weaker. He felt he had not a soul to share with. He could not talk to Hester and Pearl, for fear his black secret would be uncovered. He was alone in the world, with no one to confide in. Dimmesdale finally chose to risk his reputation and arranged to see Hester and Pearl in the forest. After Hester took off the scarlet letter and after Dimmesdale agreed to abandon his false position in his church, they were both bathed in sunlight. They had a glorious time talking and consoling each other. However, their joy quickly ended when seeing Pearl reminded them of their sin. The two lovers had to face the truth that as long as Dimmesdale kept the secret of their affair, they could never be together.

With the black secret buried deep within his soul, Dimmesdale definitely suffered more than Hester and Pearl suffered. Dimmesdale hid his sin from the congregation, watched Hester and Pearl receive all the punishment for their sin, and lived in torment and solitude in order to maintain his image. The Puritans judged Hester as an awful, unrighteous person, when they too were unrighteous. They were trying to play God. In the Puritan society, Dimmesdale failed to tell the truth, because of this he hurt many other people in his path.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to convey the message that everyone sins and those who judge sinners are hypocrites because they themselves sin. The author also points out that if a person lies, it not only affects the liar, but everyone he interacts with. A domino effect occurs. In addition, Hawthorne revealed through his novel that not a man, woman, or child, can go through life without making some mistakes. As the Bible states in Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)


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