Community In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne explores the relationship between the individual and society within a strict puritanical community. After committing adultery, Hester is stripped of her humanity and forced to wear an “A” for “adulterer” in order to appease the community. Her ignominy was lead by Dimmesdale, a minister for the community and later revealed to be the father of her daughter, Pearl. From the beginning of the novel, Hester maintains a commitment to her set of personal values. This is exhibited through her refusal to reveal Dimmesdale’s name, thriving outside the values of the community, and accepting the letter as a part of her identity. Meanwhile, Dimmesdale allows his guilt to corrode his conscience internally. ……show more content…
While the novel is centered around Hester’s punishment and ignominy, Dimmesdale exhibits greater change throughout the novel than Hester. “Another peculiar torture was felt in the gaze of a new eye. When strangers looked curiously at the scarlet letter and none ever failed to do so--they branded it afresh in Hester 's soul; so that, oftentimes, she could scarcely refrain, yet always did refrain, from covering the symbol with her hand” (79). This quotation is an example of Hester’s strong sense of self. It says “she could scarcely refrain, yet always did refrain, from covering the symbol with her hand.” Although she feels some humiliation from other members of society, she is strong enough to not cover up the letter in shame from the beginning of the novel. She wears the letter with pride and accepts her punishment without guilt for her actions. She exhibits self-determination by not submitting to the strict standards of her society. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, does not begin and end the story with the same sense of self as Hester. He does not own up to his actions,…show more content…
He had striven to put a cheat upon himself by making the avowal of a guilty conscience, but had gained only one other sin, and a self-acknowledged shame, without the momentary relief of being self-deceived. He had spoken the very truth, and transformed it into the veriest falsehood. And yet, by the constitution of his nature, he loved the truth, and loathed the lie, as few men ever did. Therefore, above all things else, he loathed his miserable self!” (131). This quote shows character development in Dimmesdale. At the beginning of the novel, he refuses to own up to his sin without remorse. He was hypocritical in demanding that Hester reveal the name of the man in her affair, knowing that she would not do it. Now, he recognizes his hypocrisy and feels guilt for it. Unlike Hester, who never feels regret or guilt for her actions and stands up for herself, Dimmesdale’s character changes and develops throughout the novel as his individual morals become internally more important than the Puritanical
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