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Scarlett Letter Essay Essay, Research Paper
Scarlet Letter Essay
In literature, some characters display great loneliness. This loneliness is usually the result
a real or perceived physical, social, or moral breach between the character and others in his or her
life. This usually leads to trouble and pain for the lonely character. A good example of a moral
breach creating a lonely state is Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne?s, The Scarlet
Letter. Unable to confess his greatest sin, in his mind he estranges himself with his Puritan New
England community and, due to his lonely mental state, suffers a steady physical decline until the
end of the book, when he dies.
Arthur Dimmesdale is the man who committed adultery with Hester Prynne, the main
character of the book, and fathered Pearl, Hester?s child during the affair. A well respected
minister in the New England town of Boston, Dimmesdale appears from the outside to be an
epitome of a holy man. He is a good speaker and very well liked by his parish. Caring for him
while he is sick, Roger Chillingworth, (who is really Hester?s husband, Roger Prynne), takes
revenge on him for committing adultery with his wife. In chapter X, Chillingworth discovers by
the mark on Dimmesdale?s chest that he is the adulterer with Hester. He toys with Dimmesdale
and increases Dimmesdale?s discomfort by asking him questions such as, ? . . . is Hester less
miserable than the father (of Pearl) because she wears the scarlet letter?? His answer, ?Yes,
because she can show her pain,? is his major struggle in this book and the source of his loneliness,
that he cannot confess and seek forgiveness for his sin and must become a hypocrite by preaching
to his community about faithfulness to God?s commandments.
When Hester is forced to stand on the scaffold with the letter ?A? on her chest, he tells her
to give the name of the father so that he does not have to ?hide a guilty heart? throughout his life.
This shows how Dimmesdale is remorseful of his sin. Again, later on in the book, Dimmesdale
goes to the scaffold in the middle of the night. He does this in the hope that if he stands on the
scaffold as Hester did, he can cleanse himself of his burden of sin. He realizes soon after he is up
there that what he is doing is a mockery, and cries out in self-hate. At this point, Pearl spots him
and Hester and Pearl join him on the scaffold. They ask him to join them on the scaffold the
following morning, ending all confusion of whom Pearl?s father is. He replies that he will, ?stand
with them on the great judgment day.? As he says this, a red comet in the shape of an ?A?
crosses the sky. Chillingworth then appears, saying that the ?pious Master Dimmesdale? must be
?walking in his sleep.? Afraid that his secret might be out, Dimmesdale allows himself to be led
home by the devious Chillingworth.
The relationship between Dimmesdale and Pearl is a pitiable affair. The loving, intelligent
Dimmesdale would have been a wonderful father to the inquisitive, persistent Pearl. When she
asks Hester who sent her to Hester, she is told that the Heavenly Father sent her. She denies
having one and again asks for the name of her father. Pearl, an outlet to for Hester?s feelings and
thoughts, also serves as conscience for Dimmesdale. It is she that suggests that he joins Hester
and her in the ?noonday sun? on the scaffold. She continually advises him to confess his sin and
accept the consequences.
In the Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale portrays a
character who is eaten by remorse, self-hate, and, most important, loneliness. He is a good
example of the self-destruction of a human being due to severe loneliness. Throughout the book,
he is not strong enough to achieve his only real escape, truth. Unable to attain forgiveness, his
physical state deteriorates in inverse proportion to his mental state. By confessing his sin in the
beginning, it could be possible that he would be able to start a new life with Hester and Pearl in
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