In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the cause of tragedy is centered upon the rigid Puritan society that leads to great consequences in the lives of sinners. Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale's act of adultery greatly affects their lives and its result greatly alters their presence in the community. Hester handles her situation with as much dignity and pride as possible, confessing and bearing the punishments amiably. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, acts in a different and cowardly manner, as he is unable to confess his sin and accept society's and God's punishment. While Hester flourishes into a servant of God, Dimmesdale struggles to confess throughout the novel. Dimmesdale's inability to confess his sin and accept punishment eventually leads to his downfall.
Arthur Dimmesdale's inability to confess is strictly due to his fear of confrontation, thus characterizing him as a coward. The fact that Dimmesdale does not publicly acknowledge or reveal his sin only contributes in denouncing himself as well as his courage. His lack of a confession solely results in the loss of power, self-esteem, and dignity. His great lack of inner strength is easily grasped due to the lies he preaches every week for seven painful years about truth and in the manner in which he avoids confrontation. He spreads the word of holiness and goodness, yet he himself does not abide these simple laws of the Puritan lifestyle. The minister can only extol Hester when she refuses to reveal him as the father by expressing "the wondrous strength and generosity of a woman's heart!"(69), rather than confess his own half of the sin. He can only praise a woman who has more strength and pow...
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...e afflicted"(111). The scarlet letter, or society's punishment, has made her a better servant of God than she has ever been. Hester's life has been redirected, and she was able to select the path of righteousness and appears able to eventually reach salvation, thanks to her abiding by society's punishment. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, avoids society, and hence avoids God. Dimmesdale never confesses and takes punishment into his own hands. Hawthorne portrays that had Dimmesdale gone to society, or God's representative on earth, he would have received an appropriate punishment and not suffered. Instead, Dimmesdale struggles to his death, and while he does eventually confess, it is too late, and Dimmesdale dooms himself. We are not sure what happens to Dimmesdale, but had he chosen society's punishment over his own, he would have surely been headed towards salvation.
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