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The Suffering of Arthur Dimmesdale in "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Guilt is a very strong emotion, and it can take a merciless toll on a person. For most people, guilt is often a short-lived feeling because we confess why we feel guilty and get it off of our chests. However, this is hardly the case for Arthur Dimmesdale, the father of Hester Prynne’s child in the novel The Scarlet Letter. Dimmesdale does not confess that he has committed a sin with Hester, and for a brutal seven whole years, he withholds his guilt inside of him. Throughout all of that time, he reverts to self-punishment in the form of fasting, consecutive, sleepless vigils, and relentless studying of the Bible. The public viewed all of these activities as noble acts of devotion to God, and they only admired him more and more. This public veneration just made him feel like he was even more of a horrible person and that his whole life was based upon a lie. Also, Dimmesdale was faced to live with and be tormented by not only his overwhelming guilt of sin, but was moreover forced to live with Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, who plagued him almost as much as his own conscience. These are all reasons why I believe that Dimmesdale suffers most out of any main character in this novel.

Most ministers of Dimmesdale’s time used practices such as fasting, studying the Bible and keeping nightly vigils to cleanse themselves in order to make themselves more fit to teach holy practices. Dimmesdale took those same practices and used them as a punishment for his sinful behavior. The narrator of The Scarlet Letter writes of the dwindling health of the minister on page 91 of the book. He tells us that, “... the health of Mr. Dimmesdale had evidently begun to fail. By those best acquainted with his habits, the paleness of the young ...

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...mbodiment of the devil himself because of his evil, knifing ways.

In summary, I believe that Arthur Dimmesdale suffers the most out of the three main characters of The Scarlet Letter. He brings a great deal of the suffering upon himself by keeping his feelings locked inside of himself, fasting, studying unceasingly, and holding frequent night- long vigils. Also, the public has something to do with much of his distress, as well. They praise and worship him like a God among them, but this just reminds him that he is everything but holy. Furthermore, a large contributing factor to his misery is his constant and unwelcome companion, Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth follows him, suffocates him and torments him by trying to get the minister to reveal all of his deep- hidden secrets.

Works Cited
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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