In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, adulteress Hester Prynne must wear a scarlet A to mark her shame. Her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, remains unidentified and is wracked with guilt, while her husband, Roger Chillingworth who seeks revenge. In June 1642, A young woman named Hester Prynne was found guilty of adultery in the Puritan town of Boston. Then a crowd gathered to witness the punishment and now she must wear a scarlet A on her dress as a sign of shame. Also, she must stand on the scaffold for three hours for public humiliation. As Hester approaches the scaffold, many of the women in the crowd are angered by her beauty and quiet dignity. When demanded and cajoled to name the father of her child, Hester refuses. …show more content…
With him are Reverends Wilson and Dimmesdale. When Wilson questions Pearl about her catechism, she refuses to answer, even though she knows the correct response, thus jeopardizing her guardianship. Hester appeals to Reverend Dimmesdale in desperation, and the minister persuades the governor to let Pearl remain in Hester's care. Because Reverend Dimmesdale's health has begun to fail, the townspeople are happy to have Chillingworth, a newly arrived physician, take up lodgings with their beloved minister. Being in such close contact with Dimmesdale, Chillingworth begins to suspect that the minister's illness is the result of some unconfessed guilt. He applies psychological pressure to the minister because he suspects Dimmesdale to be Pearl's father. One evening, pulling the sleeping Dimmesdale's vestment aside, Chillingworth sees something startling on the sleeping minister's pale chest: a scarlet …show more content…
Climbing the scaffold, he sees Hester and Pearl and calls to them to join him. He admits his guilt to them but cannot find the courage to do so publicly. Suddenly Dimmesdale sees a meteor forming what appears to be a gigantic A in the sky; simultaneously, Pearl points toward the shadowy figure of Roger Chillingworth. Hester, shocked by Dimmesdale's deterioration, decides to obtain a release from her vow of silence to her husband. In her discussion of this with Chillingworth, she tells him his obsession with revenge must be stopped in order to save his own soul. Several days later, Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest, where she removes the scarlet letter from her dress and identifies her husband and his desire for revenge. In this conversation, she convinces Dimmesdale to leave Boston in secret on a ship to Europe where they can start life anew. Renewed by this plan, the minister seems to gain new energy. Pearl, however, refuses to acknowledge either of them until Hester replaces her symbol of shame on her
A man named Chillingworth, who claimed to be a doctor, made Dimmesdale feel worse about his secret, Dimmesdale let him get in his head. Reverend Dimmesdale was very weak for being a priest and putting no faith into his God. Reverend Dimmesdale is afraid of his town and his people finding out about his sin. As a priest he wants to seem holy and sinless like the people think him to be, so he hides the fact he and Hester committed adultery. When Hester is on the scaffold, Dimmesdale is asked to try and get Hester to confess who the father is, “If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will be made more
Pearl.” (Hawthorne 248). When urging Pearl and Hester to join him, Dimmesdale redeemed himself of his sin while upon the scaffold a second time. As Dimmesdale, Hester, and Pearl ascended the scaffold, Chillingworth urged the reverend to not confess and live the rest of his life with this sin “followed. . .
As he takes his last breaths in Hester's arms, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale exclaims, “God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my afflictions. Had either of these agonies been wanting, I had been lost for ever”. Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale is tormented endlessly by remorse and the repression of his sin. Because of this, in his final moments, he is driven to reveal to the townspeople that he is the father of Pearl, finally relieving the guilt he burdened himself with for seven years.
Dimmesdale and Chillingworth both have secrets that make them look and act differently, their secrets affect their character and how they do their job. Dimmesdale is the father of Pearl but he doesn 't want to face the same humiliation as Hester did for his sins. Because of his secret he self punishes and fasts, he also preaches better than he did before although his health is failing. Chillingworth’s secret is that he was the husband of Hester while he was away, before she cheated on him. Chillingworth gets uglier and uglier driven by the need to get revenge on Pearl’s father.
Even though she is supposed to be humiliated in front of the town as punishment for her adultery, she smiles proudly and wears her scarlet letter as a badge. In this instance, Hester refuses to accept her punishment thereby nullifying the punishment. If Hester were to be embarrassed on the scaffold, she would give her punishment the power to be a punishment. However, when Hester instead smiles on the scaffold, she shows that she won’t let her sin control her, no matter what the other townspeople think of her. Another example of how Hester denies her punishment is how she designed the scarlet letter.
His "treatment" for Dimmesdale’s illness only makes Dimmesdale weaker, which is his ultimate revenge. Since the truth about the sin is concealed, Chillingworth is successful in torturing Dimmesdale. Another symptom of Dimmesdale’s hurt is guilt. He knows the truth, and since society does not punish him, because they do not know the truth, he feels that he needs to punish himself by whipping himself with a "bloody scourge" and fasts "until his knees trembled beneath him" (150). This unknown, physical and self-induced punishment is harsh, but since he is too self-concealed to revel his sin, Dimmesdale accepts
This occurs after multiple sources continually badgered and convinced Dimmesdale to seek aid for his appearance ailments, from Chillingworth who is the only practicing physician in town. Throughout the treatment the two men become good friends, sharing their different views on subjects, but also becoming more intimate with each other. Chillingworth believes that many physical illnesses stem from the mind and heart (“bosom”), so he must become acquainted with his patients thoughts, motives, and ethics. However, Chillingworth is depicted as a “treasure-seeker”, alluding to the notion that there might be other subjects he seeks to attain. The author's portrayal of Dimmesdale as a “dark cavern”, elicits that the man has blackened his bosom with sin, but also that Chillingworth must be careful in his probing or he may injure himself (lose Dimmesdale’s
Dimmesdale starts living with Chillingworth so the doctor can keep the feeble minister ‘healthy’; the doctor, reversely, tries to make Dimmesdale feel conflicted about his morals which leads to Dimmesdale obsessively whipping himself “...on his own shoulders” and“... fast[ing]...in order to purify [his] body… rigorously...until his knees trembled beneath him[self]...” (132). He is enveloped in his sin, and cannot escape it unless he tells the truth. In fact, Dimmesdale could not stop thinking about his sin which “...continued to give Mr. Dimmesdale a real existence [which] was the anguish in his inmost soul” (133).
Consequently, Arthur Dimmesdale is the cause of Hester Prynne's shame for he is the man whom Hester loves. No one knows he is the father of Pearl, Hester won't say and he isn't strong enough to speak up. He struggles with this knowledge that Hester is being punished and not him. The only truth that continued to give Mr. Dimmesdale a real existence on this earth was the anguish in his inmost soul, and the undissembled expression of it in his aspect, (Hawthorne 142). Being a minister of God the citizens look up to him, and he feels guilty about his hidden sin.
Although publicly admitting to sin can be a challenging task, time will heal the initial pain. Hester Prynne, of the Scarlet Letter, lives this lesson as she commits the sin of adultery. Her punishment for the sin is to wear the letter “A” on her bosom until she is allowed to remove it by the Puritan authorities wishes. Initially, Hester feels guilt and shame as she wears it. As Hester’s character grows in strength, she overcomes the letter’s original purpose of punishment.
Punishment of Puritans for their sins occurred harshly and frequently, and these punishments ranged from fines, branding, and severe whippings to hanging and death. Many of these penalties involved public humiliation of some kind, which made it extremely difficult for townspeople to accept by their peers after they had sinned. Because the Puritans believed religion was immensely important, the community was often reluctant to allow citizens that exhibited sinful behavior to achieve redemption (Cox). However, in the case of Hester Prynne, an adulterer in Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter, the townspeople eagerly made amends with her. This novel narrates the life of Hester Prynne, who committed adultery and courageously accepted the repercussions
I will not give her up!”(Ch.). Hester turns to Dimmesdale for help, the one time in the novel where she does not stand alone. Hester is able to still take, and care for little Pearl. Through the course of the years, Pearl has gotten familiar with Hester, and having the scarlet letter on her bosom. Hester can only have a certain amount of time without the scarlet letter before Pearl angrily demands that she resumes wearing the scarlet “A”.
Because of the effects that Dimmesdale’s sin has on Chillingworth, the town suffers as well. The betrayal of their pastor leads them to refuse to see the truth when he pleads for the public to see his guilt at the end of the novel, and his secrecy from the people that adore him is one of the slyest and vile parts of his sin. The blind faith that the public has in their reverend is mislead by his deceit, which causes his sin to grow to a scale that Hester’s never did. Dimmesdale also harmed Pearl, by not standing with her and Hester on the day they were condemned. When she is grown, she asks, “Doth
In Dimmesdale not confessing and facing a punishment in the eyes of the church as well as the townspeople, causing him to take to his own means, while Hester is able to face a punishment. Dimmesdale does what he believes is right for his punishment by doing acts that damaged his mind and body. Dimmesdale, in creating his own punishment, holds vigils that last all night, fasted to the point that he barely ate anything at all, beat himself, and lost the will to live. Dimmesdale's sin stays with him throughout the book, and the readers see his mind and body deteriorate through his mysterious sickness, while the readers see Hester become a closed off outcast trying to repent. The townspeople in the book see DImmesdale's sickness, and how devoted he is to his faith and begin to believe that he is holy, and an angel sent to sent to save them, while Hester has repented and become able, as well as an
The Consequences of Sin Sin is defined as “an offense against religious or moral law”. The idea of sin and being ostracized for your sins was extremely relevant during the Puritan period when religion was the greatest component of daily life. The Puritans believed that they had entered a covenant with God and therefore any sin, such as crime and adultery were considered a breach of their covenant with God. This view led to the church punishing people who committed sin in order for God not to punish the church as a whole. The consequences and effects of sin is shown through the character development in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter.