The Scarlet LetterArthur Dimmesdale Essay

This essay has a total of 1640 words and 10 pages.


The Scarlet LetterArthur Dimmesdale





Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a main character in Nathaniel

Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, proves to be a sinner against man,

against God and most importantly against himself because he has

committed adultery with Hester Prynne, resulting in an illegitimate

child, Pearl. His sinning against himself, for which he ultimately paid the

price of death, proved to be more harmful and more destructive than this

sin of the flesh, and his sin against God. Socrates said, “Know

thyself,” and Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” If Reverend

Dimmesdale had been true to himself he certainly wouldn’t have suffered

as much as he did. What drove Dimmesdale to hold in his self-condemning

truth? To answer this, it’s necessary to examine the whole character of

Reverend Dimmesdale while explaining his sinful situation.


Dimmesdale is not ignorant, he is very well educated. As

Hawthorne states, “…Rev. Mr. Dimmesdale; a young clergyman who had

come from one of the great English universities, bringing all the learning

of the age into our wild forestland. His eloquence and religious fervor had

already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession.” (Hawthorne

72) This man’s morals had, until the adultery, been high. He is very

spiritual because on top of being of the Puritan faith, he is a minister of

the word of God. Throughout most of the novel, Rev. Dimmesdale is

forced to hide his guilt of being Hester’s partner in sin. When in reality,

he is not being forced by anyone, but himself, for he is the one who

chooses not to reveal his secret to the town. Dimmesdalehas a concealed

sin that is, eating at him. He just doesn’t have the courage to admit his

wrongs. He seems to be a coward during these seven years of living with

guilt. There is a scene in chapter 3 where Rev. Dimmesdale states,

“Hester Prynne…If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy

earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I

charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow –sinner and fellow-

sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for,

believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and

stand there beside thee on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so,

than to hide a guilty heart through life? What can thy silence do for him,

except it tempt him-yea compel him as it were-to add hypocrisy to sin?”

(73) In this scene it is almost as if we see Dimmesdale speaking as a

hypocrite, himself!


Dimmesdale portrays himself very ironically. He is a very

well respected reverend and yet, has, for the last 7 years, worked on

preaching the word of God, especially while he urges the congregation to

confess openly to repent unto God. While, in reality, Dimmesdale is the

one whoneeds a clean conscious. He feels like he needs to confess not

only to the town but also too himself. Halfway through the novel

Dimmesdale has yet to reveal the truth, which, so far, has been devouring

him, physically and mentally. Since this good reverend is so spiritual, he

cannot reveal his truths to the town so simply. He is of the Puritan faith

and being a follower of that, the sin of adultery is a very grand sin. The

whole town would look down on him as if he were a hypocrite. Which in

fact, he is, but his sin of adultery in that town would have been scoffed at

just as Hester’s has. The reverend is so well liked by the townsfolk that

Hawthorne states, “They fancied him the mouthpiece of Heaven’s

messages of wisdom, rebuke, and love. In their eyes, the very ground on

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