Dimmesdale's versus Danforth's Sins in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter

In the words of Alexander Pope 'To err is human.' Everybody makes mistakes. It is human nature. However, how one deals with the mistake is much more important than the mistake itself. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Dimmesdale and Danforth's sins have similar motives, but the characters have distinctly different methods of sin and resolution. Dimmesdale is a selfish coward. He does not work toward anything substantial. Although he supposedly loves Hester, he refuses to admit that he was her ?fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer? ( Hawthorne, 65). When Pearl asks Dimmesdale to accompany her and her mother when they stand at the scaffold, he refuses for fear of public exposure. He has put Pearl and her mother through a lot, but will not stand along side them during their public shame, even though he is the cause of it. Danforth, like Dimmesdale, is cowardly and selfish. He thinks solely of himself and his position of power as he sends dozens of people to the gallows. He refuses to let the accused have fair trials, denying their requests for legal representation and having a jury of corrupt young girls in charge of sentencing. He does everything he can to keep himself from losing credibility. Both Dimmesdale and Danforth put their careers first. Dimmesdale proves this constantly throughout the book by considering his own career and distinction a higher priority than Hester, the woman who loves him, and his child, who must grow up, corrupt in the eyes of society, like her mother. Danforth cherishes his position above all else. When Parris, fearing for his well-being, asks Danforth to postpone further sentencing, he replies ?There will be no postponement? (Miller 128). He does not want the townspeople to think he is wavering and fears they will begin to doubt the so-called ?good? of what he is doing for the town and its God-fearing citizens. Danforth and Dimmesdale contrast in the way of their sins of commission and omission. Although Dimmesdale does not openly admit his sins until the end of the story, they feed on his conscience, causing him to engage in self-torturing practices. He confuses the destruction and weakening of himself for penance for his sin. Aided by Hester?s angered husband, Dimmesdale weakens himself so much, that he uses the last of his strength in his confession and he dies in Hester?s arms. Danforth suspects he is sending innocent people to their deaths, but through the love of his office, he does not stop his corrupt practices nor attempt to right his wrongs.
Get Access