Guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Satisfactory Essays
Guilt in The Scarlet Letter

What is guilt? We all have guilt about something. Maybe forgetting

something, lied about something, or even did something that shouldn't of been

done. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne we saw guilt fester in the

minds and outward appearance of the main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur

Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth.

When you hear the word guilt what do you think it means? Guilt means

remorseful awareness of having done something wrong or of having failed to do

something required or expected. Does that sound about right? Guilt is

something everyone has. Its this mental manifestation that lets us know when we

did something wrong but no one knows it yet. Guilt is very powerful. Some

people after awhile give in to this guilt and confess what they did.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale commit a

great sin. Because of this great sin, it causes them immense guilt and sadness

though out the rest of the book. One of the main character's that is affected

the most is Arthur Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale handles it in a different way though,

to him its more of a "concealed sin." A example of this is, "It may be that

they are kept silent by the very constitution of their nature. Or - can we not

suppose it - guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for God's

glory and man's welfare, they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy

in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no

evil or the past be redeemed by better service." Dimmesdale also has another

reason for his concealing, he wants to remain silent so that he can continue to

do God's work as a minister.

Hester Prynne handles her guilt in another way. Instead of worrying

about it day after day and letting to fester, she makes it outward. At the

beginning of the book she wears the most awesome clothes and shows the world

she's not guilty for what she has done. An example of this is, "And never had

Hester Prynne appeared more lady-like, in the antique interpretation of the term,
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