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Dimmesdale The Scarlet Letter Essay

Dimmesdale The Scarlet Letter Essay

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Published by: sarahwinter12 on Jan 29, 2010
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Sarah WinterAOHS-American Literature10/22/09Arthur Dimmesdale should be pitied and saved because he is onlyhuman. His actions were simply a display of a common human weakness.Even though the morals and values of the 17
th
century hold adultery as oneof the worst possible sins you could commit, the way he dealt with theresulting emotions and the self inflicted punishment earn him pity. He suffersmore than anyone else in the book. Hester's sin is out in the open and shehas made her peace with it. It was much more difficult, and more tormentingfor Dimmesdale to have kept it secret. He punishes himself far more thananyone else ever could. Despite Dimmesdale’s display of weakness,Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale has earned my pity and I think others shouldsympathize with him too.Dimmesdale is first portrayed as a nervous and sensitive individual. The best description of the ordained Puritan minister can be found in chapterIII,
The Recognition
, in which Hawthorne states, “…Reverend Mr.Dimmesdale; a young clergyman, who had come from one of the greatEnglish universities, bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forest-land. His eloquence and religious fervor had already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession. He was a person of very striking aspect,with a white, lofty, and impending brow, large, brown, melancholy eyes, anda mouth which, unless when he forcibly compressed it, was apt to betremulous, expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-
 
restraint.” (Hawthorne 61.) It would appear that Dimmesdale is theepitome of human weakness and sorrow. Obviously he is a sensitive manand it is apparent in The Scarlet Letter that his devotion to God andpassion for his religion make him effective in the pulpit.Dimmesdale's one-paragraph speech in
The Recognition
to Hesterreveals more about his character than any description of his physicalbody and nervous habits that Hawthorne provides (Hawthorne 62.)Knowing that he was Hester's sexual partner and is Pearl's father, thespeech that Dimmesdale gives is filled with double meanings. On onelevel, he is giving a public scolding of Hester for not naming her lover. Onanother level, however, he makes a personal plea to her to name him asher lover and Pearl's father because he is too morally weak to do sohimself. The speech is ironic because what is initially intended to be aspeech about Hester becomes more a commentary about his own sinfulbehavior. The speech invokes a strong feeling of sympathy in the crowd,sympathy that should belong to Dimmesdale.Dimmesdale has the principal conflict in the novel, and his agonyand suffering are the direct result of his inability to reveal his sin. Whilethe power of self restraint seems to give Dimmesdale great strength, his self restraint is also his utmost weakness. His body refuses to do what his heartsays is right. In his one-paragraph speech (Hawthorne 63,) Dimmesdaleurges Hester to reveal the truth, but when she refuses he doesn’t have thewillpower to confess himself. Therefore, his sin blossoms into one even
 
larger than hers. Hester’s sin is exposed, so the only thing it can do isgradually fade away, as new scandals present themselves to the community.Dimmesdale, on the other hand, continues to lie to himself and his followersby keeping his secret hidden and concealed. The more he prolongs theunveiling of his sin, the larger it grows. Hawthorne is showing us just howstrong Dimmesdale actually is. By allowing Dimmesdale to hide his sin andbear the weight of it, Hawthorne creates an interesting and tremendouslystrong character.While some may argue that Arthur Dimmesdale should be scorned andcondemned for his weakness as a man, I think he has already scorned andcondemned himself enough. He punishes himself far more than anyone elseever could, eventually turning to extreme instances of this such as self flagellation. Some say that only by being an honest, forthright person canone be truly human, but I disagree. I think it is human nature to lie andusually people lie to protect somebody’s best interests. While this doesn’tnecessarily justify lying, it certainly explains it. In spite of his horrible sin,Dimmesdale is still a good man. He is well respected for good reasons; he iswell educated, passionate about his career, and has a good morals. Hisconscious is active, which proves that he has a good heart. WhenDimmesdale had sexual relations with Hester, they were both under theimpression that Hester’s husband, Chillingworth, was lost at sea. In the 17
th
century it was undoubtedly a sin to have relations with another man aftersomeone’s spouse disappeared or died, but today that seems quite

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