Reverend Dimmesdale's Guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Guilt of Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter

God does not like the sin of adultery. He does not like lying. He does not like hypocrisy. There are two roads that one can choose. In the end, what may seem like the easy way may have far greater consequences than the hard way. Arthur Dimmesdale chose the easy path and learned that the pain of guilt is far greater than the pain of shame.

From the start, Dimmesdale did not want to live with the consequence of his sin. To begin with, he must of told Hester not to tell anyone about his sin, because on the scaffold, she will not tell anyone (pg. 64). Clearly, Dimmesdale was afraid of the justice and the shame that would follow. He thought that if no one knew, he could continue with his life normally. Yet, he began punishing himself secretly (pg. 133). Slowly though, the sin began to nag at him, and he had to beat himself to sooth his conscience. This shows that he has a conscience and that he is beginning to feel convicted. Late in the book, he finally confesses before the town, but then dies (pg. 231-233). As can be seen by his confession, he had the heart to change, but only then he realized that it was too late. His death marked the effect of the poisonous sin that had accumulated in him. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, just as repentance leads to salvation, a lesson Dimmesdale did not learn until it was too late.

Dimmesdale is very hypocritical in how he handles the subject of his sin. For example, he says "Be not silent from any mistaken pity or 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 he...

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...glimpse of human affection and sympathy, a new life, and a true one, in exchange for the heavy doom which he was now expiating." (pg. 184). Hester's offer to him for a new shot at life could not lift the guilt. He had sinned against the townspeople, and he needed to confess to them. When Dimmesdale is dying at the end, he asks Pearl to kiss him (pg. 233). This kiss signifies the breaking of the hold that sin had on his life. Sadly, it was too late-the sin had already consumed the last bits of life that he had left. Even though he died shortly after he confessed, he still repented, and that was his goal.

Once he confessed his sin to the community, his guilt was gone too. Even after Dimmesdale repented, God still did not like the sin. But, once he repented, he was separated from that sin. God shows mercy on those who repent, and He showed mercy on Dimmesdale.
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