Hypocrisy in the scarlet letter Essay

This essay has a total of 955 words and 4 pages.


hypocrisy in the scarlet letter





Hypocrisy, often seen as one of the vilest manifestations of the human ego, is also one of
the most inevitable and foreseeable. It is the simplest, and yet one of the most intricate
aspects of being human. We all wish to judge and not be judged, for our own voice is
always the strongest in our mind. Hypocrisy runs rampant in daily life; all one has to do
is turn on the television set at our convenience to be forced to consider the meanings and
implications of our own actions. Can we, in all seriousness, sing of peace on earth and
goodwill towards men in the coming weeks while we continue to drop bombs and execute other
military actions in the name of revenge? Should we trust politicians who want to sacrifice
civil rights in order, they say, to preserve liberty? In his novel The Scarlet Letter,
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses hypocrisy to prove the moral of the story, honesty, through his
characters, symbols, and ironies.

Arthur Dimmesdale is a man of contradictions. The populace of Boston looks upon him upon
as a saint, and yet he hides a great sin in his heart. Dimmesdale is in a constant state
of poor physical health and mental anguish because he knows he is guilty of adultery, yet
he cannot admit to his transgression. He wears a self-inflicted scarlet letter comparable
to Hester’s, and suffers, as does Hester; yet in his case he is the one ostracizing
and torturing himself as opposed to Hester, who has become the town pariah. In his final
hour, Dimmesdale climbs the scaffold and announces that the devil hid his scarlet letter
“cunningly from men…Now, at the death-hour, he stands up before you! He bids
you to look again at Hester’s scarlet letter… it is but the shadow of what he
bears on his own breast…Behold! Behold a dreadful witness of it!”(Hawthorne
232), tearing away his robe to finally reveal the secret hypocrisy that, in the end,
killed him.

Roger Chillingworth is a man who, despite the fact that he was once a warm, intellectual
fellow, has been transformed in the name of revenge into an evil, malicious sort of
creature. He is well aware that he is becoming evil, and yet tells Hester “it is our
fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may!” (160). In the act of avenging a
transgression upon himself, he commits an even greater sin by “violating, in cold
blood, the sanctity of the human heart” (179). In the end, Chillingworth has become
a fiend, his heart so twisted by his own doings that he is, without a doubt, but a shadow
of the compassionate man he once was. Hester and Chillingworth did sin against him, but it
is his own hypocrisy that changes him.

The scarlet letter is the most prominent symbol in the novel. Hawthorne uses it to convey
an array of different meanings, and its identity, as well as the wearer’s, changes
over the course of the novel. In the beginning, it stands for adultery and makes Hester an
Continues for 2 more pages >>