Guilt in the Scarlet Letter

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Effects of Guilt

Guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, whether real or imagined. There are different types of guilt. Guilt can be caused by a physical thing a person did that he isn’t proud of, or wanted to hide, can be something a person imagined he did to someone or something else, or can be caused when a person did something to his God or religion. Everyone at some time in his or her life has a run in with guilt, and it has a different impact on each person. People, who are feeling guilty because of something they did or said, can influence how other people act and feel. Some people are affected worse by guilt than others, for example, Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter. Talked about in The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale, a man with the deepest guilt, was responsible for the moral well-being of his people. He went against his teachings, committed adultery, and left the woman to suffer publicly alone while he stayed like a hero in the town. On the other hand, sometimes the masses are affected by one person’s guilt. He was affected much more by guilt, because he didn’t tell anyone of what he had done. By keeping guilt internalized, a person ultimately ends up hurting himself. More than seventy percent of all things that make people feel guilty are found out later on in their life by other people. Guilt has three categories that it affects the most in people: physical, mental, and spiritual.

Physical effects of guilt can be major or minor depending on the person. Some people get sick from guilt. For example, in The Scarlet Letter it says, ‘a bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, May, after all but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part.’ (93) Guilt can take a toll on the people a person loves. Although a person wants to protect them, his guilty symptoms may upset loved ones even if he does not want it too. Dimmesdale loved Hester, the woman he committed adultery with, but hid his sin from the people while she could not. Subsequently, Dimmesdale hurt the one he loved and guilt overcame him during the story making him sick, pale, restless, and lacking energy.

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