Dimmesdale’s Moral Tragedy in the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Dimmesdale’s Moral Tragedy

The Ten Commandments plainly say you, "'Shall not commit adultery.” In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s historical story, The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, bares the most brutal effects of such sin. This is due to several reasons. The most observable reason for his eventual breakdown is the fact that he keeps his sin a secret. Arthur Dimmesdale's sin was the same as Hester's, except Arthur, through his own disagreeable actions, leaves himself in a position to either ignore the community's idea that he is a pure and Godly man or to trick them. For most of The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale chose to lie. Dimmesdale also believes that his sin has taken the meaning out of his life. His life's work has been dedicated to God, and now his sin has tainted it. He feels that he is a fraud and is not fit to lead the people of the town through their Puritan beliefs.

Dimmesdale knows that he has done wrong. To make himself feel commendable, he uses justification for himself, “shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them” (Hawthorne 122). Most upstanding public figures know that their reputation is at risk when they are deemed of doing something improper. In the case of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, he has committed a major sin. He is a pastor, who is said to be “the saint on earth” with a “white soul” by his congregation (Hawthorne 132). He is supposed to be a man of God. Yet, unbeknownst to the congregation throughout much of the novel, he has committed adultery. His white soul is potentially blackened. His thoughts are most likely to be that the congregation and people would not have trust in him. In Reverend Dimmesdale’s ...

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...ldren playing in the road and wanted to teach them some “very wicked words” (Hawthorne 201). He also resisted doing this. Finally, Dimmesdale decided that he would shake hands and joke with a drunken Spanish sailor since he had resisted all the other temptations. He couldn’t figure out why he was having such strange temptations. He asks himself, “Am I mad?” (Hawthorne 201). Hawthorne himself tells us that Dimmesdale isn’t merely “sorely tempted,” he’s “lost and desperate” (201).

Hawthorne paints us a vivid picture of a man who was confused as to what the right thing was to do. Hawthorne implies Dimmesdale is an example of a person engulfed in their own moral tragedy. His judgement was clouded, and he was ultimately led to destructive things, things that were probably brought on by stress, the concealing of a sin, and an evil man named Roger Chillingworth.
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