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Arthur Dimmesdale is the Greatest Sinner in The Scarlet Letter
It is strange how often other peoples' sins seem so much worse in comparison to our own. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale, an adulterate minister, seems to believe that Roger Chillingworth, the husband of his lover, is somewhat lacking in righteousness, when in fact, Arthur himself has "deeply sinned." Through his adultery, his lying, and his lack of faith, Arthur Dimmesdale wrongs more than anyone else in the novel.
"'You shall not commit adultery'" (Exodus 20:14). Hester's and Arthur's mutual sin is the source of their discontentment. They wrong themselves by breaking this sixth commandment. As Hester disavows her duties to her husband, Arthur denies his duty to the people of the community who look up to him with astounding reverence. He has polluted his soul, and says it best himself: "What can a...polluted soul [effect towards] their purification?" Arthur, through his own tainted actions, leaves himself in a position to either nullify the community's notion that the Reverend is a pure and godly individual or to lie to them. For most of the story, he chose the latter.
"'You shall not bear false witness...'" (Exodus 20:16) Dimmesdale casts the eighth commandment aside as he continues to impress upon the Puritan community his moral and upright façade. "Happy are you Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret!" Dimmesdale realizes his fault in hiding his sin, but his desire to repent is repeatedly overcome by his craving for public approval. His continuing falsehood led to his straying away from his relationship with God.
"'You shall have no other gods before me.'" (Exodus 20:3) In the words of Martin Luther, this first commandment can be best interpreted as "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things" (Luther's *Small* Catechism). Dimmesdale does all but exemplify this conception. Instead of placing his fate in the hands of The Almighty, Arthur allows himself to become subdued by Roger Chillingworth, who acts as a figurative enzyme to sin by taking Arthur out of his comfort zone and stressing his relationship with God.
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