Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter - Effects of Sin Upon Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale

The Effects of Sin Upon Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorn shows sins of several different kinds in numerous people, as well as the consequences and remedies of their sins. Three main characters; Hester Prynne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth bare the most of these sins. Arthur Dimmesdale, however, 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 he never confessed. "As God's servant, it is his nature to tell the truth, so the years of pretending and hypocrisy were especially hard on him." (Bloom 28) 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 to salvation.

His secret guilt a much heavier burden than Hester's since he must hold it all within himself. This also reveals Dimmesdale weakness. Arthur wanted desperately to admit his sin to the world, which is shown throughout the book. The earliest incident was when he was asked to question Hester on the scaffold as to who the father of her child was:

"I charge thee to speak out the name of the thy fellow-sinner and fellow sufferer! Be not silent for any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart throughout life." (Hawthorne 67)

In this speech Dimmesdale is pleading for her to tell the name of the father, and fellow sinner, not just for the other leaders sake, but for his own. He is to weak minded to do it himself, and he believes it would be better to lose his place of power in the church than to "hide his guilty heart." Since he was not revealed, this is exactly what he does, hides his guilty heart.

In view of the fact that there was no external punishment for Arthur, he creates it within himself.
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