Arthur Dimmesdale's Guilt Quotes

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale commits a mortal sin by having an affair with a married woman, Hester Prynne. As a man of the cloth in Puritan society, Dimmesdale is expected to be the embodiment of the town’s values. He becomes captive to a self-imposed guilt that manifests from affair and his fear that he won’t meet the town’s high expectations of him. In an attempt to mitigate this guilt, Dimmesdale acts “piously” and accepts Chillingworth’s torture, causing him to suffer privately, unlike Hester who repented in the eyes of the townspeople. When Dimmesdale finally reveals his sin to the townspeople, he is able to free himself from his guilt. Dimmesdale’s guilt, which stems from his dread of not living…show more content…
Dimmesdale suffers differently from Hester, because while she “bore it all” to the townspeople (181), his fears forced him to hide his sin, living a life full of “nothing but despair” (177). Hester, though made a social pariah of the town, has a more honest and healthy way of dealing with her sin. Because Hester is forced to face her wrongdoings under the watchful eye of her Puritan neighbors, she did not have the same guilt of secrecy that Dimmesdale did. Dimmesdale, by hiding his sin, allows himself to become a captive to his guilt. The way that Dimmesdale dealt with his guilt was unhealthy for him, both mentally and physically. Mentally, his guilt strains his mind, which causes his physical deterioration, and the weakening of his body. As Dimmesdale finally admits his sin to the townspeople, his guilt is lifted, and he is able to release himself from his captivity. Though he deteriorated both mind and body from his guilt, by telling the townspeople of his sin, it was as if “a spell was broken” (238). He no longer needed to force himself to hide his sin, which was what was hurting him. By finally dealing with his sin in a similar way to Hester, Dimmesdale was able to free himself of his self-imposed captivity and
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