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Dimmesdale's Sin

Powerful Essays
Everyone makes a mistake in life that they regret; in Dimmesdale’s case, he kept his sin hidden. Hawthorne uses various methods to depict Dimmesdale’s struggle to overcome the oppressive Puritan society and reveal his true identity. The laws, religion, and members of the community set high expectations for Dimmesdale to live up to. He is pressured to please his people and obey the rules of his society, but he knows that they will not accept who he really is. The community’s expectations cause Dimmesdale to punish himself for his sin instead of confessing. He struggles for years to come to terms with his mistake, and in the end he is able to accept his true identity and confess his sin publicly. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne illustrates how the community’s influence over Dimmesdale prevents him from embracing his true identity, highlighting the negative effects the community can have on a person.

Negative and restrictive diction are used to portray the detrimental aspects of the community’s strict laws, which prevent Dimmesdale from revealing his true identity to the public. The Puritans are described as, “…a people amongst whom religion and law [are] almost identical, and in whose character both [are] so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and the severest acts of public discipline [are] alike made venerable and awful,” illustrating the high expectations of the community and the pressure their laws place on Dimmesdale (Hawthorne 47-48). The restrictive diction of the identical value of “religion and law” highlights the severity of Dimmesdale’s sin in the eyes of society, which explains his inability to confess his sin due to the harsh punishments. Negative diction is used to describe how the “mildest and the severest act...

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...ity. The community’s negative influence over Dimmesdale makes him unable to reveal his true identity, except in the face of death.

Works Cited

Carton, Evan. “The Prison Door.” Modern Critical Interpretations: The Scarlet Letter. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 99. Print.

Colacurcio, Michael J. “Footsteps of Ann Hutchinson: The Context of The Scarlet Letter.” Modern Critical Interpretations: The Scarlet Letter. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 136. Print.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. 1850. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, 1989. Print

Pennell, Melissa McFarland. Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. Print

Sewall, Richard B. “The Scarlet Letter.” Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Gale Research, 1997. 324. Print.
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