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Janus Cataluna 2C-1 Dimmesdales Deadly Dilemma

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It is not necessary for a prince to have all the above-mentioned qualities [being merciful, faithful, humane, honest, and religious] in fact, but it is indeed necessary to appear to have them, wrote Machiavelli in The Prince, arguing that leaders need not be honest and upstanding individuals, but rather must only appear so for the good of their people. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthone uses Arthur Dimmesdale as a tool to reflect on the question that Machiavellis writing answers: is honestly always preferable to hypocrisy? In no way is the question an easy one to answer, and Hawthorne weaves the dilemma skillfully into the ministers internal conflict. On one hand, it may seem that as a devout Puritan man Dimmesdale has an obligation to face punishment, just as Hester faced hers. On the other hand, his confession has the potential to cause a significant amount of harm to his society, in that it would discover that the holy and pious minister it looked up to is in fact a sinful, cowardly man. By maintaining a balance between Dimmesdales responses to his hypocrisy, and the faith and awe that his superficial piety inspires in the Puritan community, Hawthorne forces the reader to consider the question. While he gives no clear answer, a careful reader can make use of Dimmesdales decisions to infer upon an answer that Hawthorne might have rationalized. Although he lives a live of hypocrisy throughout the events of The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdales choice to confess before his final moments reveals an integral part of Hawthornes argument. By having Dimmesdale reveal his sin, even at the end of the book, Hawthorne shows that an intelligent, moral, and self-reflective man found an obligation to turn to honesty. Despite the differences in Puritan society and that of a readers, one still feels a strong urge to agree with Dimmesdale. The average reader inarguably believes that Dimmesdale and Hester equally deserve the shame brought upon by a bright, scarlet A stitched unto ones clothes.

Janus Cataluna

Cataluna 2

2C-1 Insofar as that is true, then Dimmesdales revelation becomes the turning point of Hawthornes argument in that even after seven years of cowardice, despite the fact that doing so would provide him no more consequences, Dimmesdale still feels a moral impetus to confess, to be honest. Although one who believes that Hawthorne would have said otherwise might point out that the minster underwent his grief for the greater good, Hawthornes strategic placement of the confession before Dimmesdales death shows that this was nothing but rationalizing his fault. If the intelligent and self-reflective Dimmesdale truly wanted the greater good, he would have brought his secret to his grave. After all, the society would still be equally devastated the man they trusted, regardless of when he confessed, is still a hypocrite and a sinner. The timing of the confession, therefore, only becomes important in that it shows that Dimmesdales argument for the people was but an excuse to hold his conscience together until he could muster the courage to face the truth. Although he is a man built of a strong moral fiber, Dimmesdale is faced with a terribly difficult decision to make. In the end, though, Dimmesdale and Hawthorne alike would very reluctantly choose honesty over hypocrisy. From a purely moral standpoint, honesty easily overcomes the hypocrisy argument. There are far too many flaws with a utilitarian standpoint in this case there is more to the human domain of morality than simply net benefits. There is no doubt, therefore, that DImmesdale is a coward, but the question of hypocrisy and honest is not as simple as that. There are some cases where there is such a strong impetus to act hypocritically that no straight answer could possibly be given. But if asked to give a straight answer, I am forced to say, honesty. Ironically enough, I think preaching honesty, yet being aware of the need for hypocrisy, is the best way to answer the question. Where to draw the line, however, is an even more difficult question to answer.