“Life is hard, but accepting that fact makes it easier. ” this common phrase hasbeen proven true in many people’s lives, but is also a harsh fact that Boston’s Rev.
Dimmesdale, a key character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s the Scarlet Letter, had to face. In this twisted story of deception and adultery set in the Puritan era, Hawthorneintroduces Dimmesdale as a weak and cowardly man who refuses to take responsibilityfor his actions. Yet, he transitions to a person who accepts his sins and theconsequences, before it is too late, ultimately finding happiness. At the beginning of the novel, Dimmesdale has established quite a reputationfor himself. In discussing individual members of the magistrate, the towns peopledescribe Dimmesdale as a “God fearing” gentleman, “but merciful overmuch (49)”. Due to his actions, all of the people respect and look up to the Reverend.Order now
Throughout the story, Dimmesdale desperately tries to confess, envying Hester, forher courage, he says, “Happy are you Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openlyupon your bosom! (188)” Even at the end of the novel, when finally attempting toconfess, people are compelled by his final sermon, raving that “never had a manspoken in so wise, so high, and so holy a spirit, as he that spake this day (p. 243)”. Proving that he was a very loved and influential man in the small town. In further developing Dimmesdale’s character, Hawthorne portrays him as ahypocrite.
His outward demeanor deceives the villagers, appearing as a completelyholy man. However, before the action of the novel begins, he stumbles into sin, bycommitting adultery with Hester Pryne, an attractive young woman whose husband hasbeen long absent on a journey, and presumed dead. His cowardly outlook on hissins only causes his troubles to snowball. Abandoning Hester and her illegitimatedaughter Pearl, also augmented his problems. Forcing Hester to go and find workaround town, an obviously hard task for a single parent.
He also abandons thememotionally and physically, rarely there when Hester and Pearl needed him. Innocentlittle Pearl wonders why Dimmesdale is so afraid of public displays of affection, yetwhen they are alone, he takes notice of her and Hester; talking to him, Pearl asks”‘Wilt thou stand here with Mother and me, tomorrow noontide?’ (p. 149)”. A questionwhose answer is unclear for Pearl. In fact, the only way Hester and Pearl receive anykind of support from Dimmesdale is when Hester threatens to tell the truth about hissins. The fact that Dimmesdale is a hypocrite causes him to experience increasedtorment due to his guilt.
Hawthorne’s point is beautifully illustrated by Dimmesdale,because if he was not such a highly religious man, then he would not care about hiscrime. However, he does care, and he inflicts torment on himself, including longperiods of fasting, in addition to hours of staring at himself in the mirror, he couldalso be caught numerous times in his closet, whipping himself and burning the letter”A” on his chest, or at the scaffold in the wee hours of the morning, practicing howhe is going to confess the next day. Deluding himself by pretending that his private punishment is adequate. Similarly, there are also some things that go on that are out of Dimmesdale’s control.
For example, bizarre thoughts and hallucinations take overhim. His outward appearance also reflects this. To illustrate, “. .
. his cheek was palerand thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before-when it had now become aconstant habit. . . .
to press his hand over his heart. . (118)”. “He thus typified theconstant introspection wherewith he tortured, but could not purify, himself (141)”. Proving, once again, that no good came out of his self-inflicted punishment.
Eventhough he was privately repentant at home, his ministerial duties were carried out,attempting to keep his personal life out of the church. Dimmesdale refuses to confess, rationalizing that if he did, he would not beable to continue preaching and doing good deeds for the people; attempting tobalance the scale. ” ‘These men deceive themselves’ “, as stated by Dimmesdales’sdoctor, referring to people who believe that they can balance the scales by “doinggood deeds (129)”. However, at the conclusion of the novel, Dimmesdale takes an enormous loadoff of his back when he swallows his pride and finally confesses. After he sees himselftransformed into a man that wants to teach children blasphemous words, and to singand get drunk with visiting