Character of Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Character of Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter

In Hawthorne's classic, The Scarlet Letter, the pathetic, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is fully aware of the means by which he must liberate his soul from his grave sin. Yet, throughout the story his confession remains an impediment, constraining him, from then onwards, to a life of atonement. Reverend Dimmesdale attempts to divest himself of his guilt by revealing it to his parishioners during services, but somehow never manages to accomplish the task. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is clearly both a coward and a hypocrite

For the most part, Dimmesdale's story is one of a lonely man who has given into temptation and desire. His carnal craving is looked upon with ignominy. The matter is further convoluted by Hester's marriage, and his unwillingness to mar his reputation among the villagers as the faithful and innocent priest. He is now stranded at a crossroad, not knowing whether to confess or carry on a life of self-punishment. The sin begins to gnaw away at his sanity. As a form of penance he partakes in late night vigils, starvation, and self-mutilation. His acts of penance were severe and drained him of much of his life force. Finally becoming fed up with his prolonged misery, he walked unsteadily to the podium to expose his secret, but his confession was ambiguous and inconclusive, and people thought he was speaking about the sins of humanity.

Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale has many opportunities to confess.

One of the very first moments available to Dimmesdale to confess was on the scaffolding in the beginning when Hester was publicly humiliated in front of the townspeople. Dimmesdale was preaching to her for hou...

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...can be rectified. Some sins are everlasting, and there are no shortcuts to salvation. Sometimes the weight of the sins must penetrate one's soul for eternity.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Baym, Nina. Introduction. The Scarlet Letter. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York City: Penguin Books USA, Inc. 1986.

Clendenning, John. "Nathaniel Hawthorne." The World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.

Griswold, Rufus Wilmot. "The Scarlet Letter." The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors. Ed. Charles Wells Moulton. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith Publishing, 1959. 341-371.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1986.

Smiles, Samuel. "The Scarlet Letter." The Critical Temper. Ed. Martin Tucker. New York City: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1962. 266.
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