Self Punishment In Scarlet Letter

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In 1850, author Nathaniel Hawthorne published one of the most beautifully detailed and awe-inspiring books of the 18th century, The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne’s book was not only a major success due to its extreme detail and daring plot, but also because it openly criticized Puritans and their religious actions. Through the use of many characters, concepts, and ideas, Hawthorne was able to use his book to expound upon the dark and hypocritical truth that controlled most Puritan followers. As the story goes on, readers receive an exclusive insight as to how common it was for “devout” Puritans to disobey their religious morals and the extreme physical and mental effects that they dealt with as a consequence. Although this book was not based upon…show more content…
Dimmesdale, one of the most religious reverends within the town, had the ultimate life going for him: he was young, extremely attractive, and had a career that was beyond successful. Everything within his life and career was fairytale perfect, except for the black veil that secretly cloaked his soul: his affair with Hester Prynne. From the very start of the book, Dimmesdale proved his hypocritical actions by breaking one of the most prominent Puritan morals, maintaining a faithful and loyal relationship. Despite his sinful choice to fulfill his desire for lust and defy the morals that he stood for as a Reverend, Dimmesdale continued to deliver powerful sermons to his congregation, who only connected with him on a deeper spiritual level. The congregation even went to the extent of describing the sermons as, “...a freshness, and fragrance, and dewy purity of thought, which, as many people said, affected them like the speech of an angel”(Hawthorne 62). As time within the book passed on, the congregation continued to develop a stronger connection with God and their Puritan beliefs due to Dimmesdale’s eloquent, yet hypocritical, sermons, but, at the same time, Dimmesdale began to realize the significance of his sins as he continued to lie to…show more content…
He spent countless days, even years, doing everything he could to hide the affair from the town and his congregation, in order to maintain his power and elite status within the community. By burying his sins deeper and deeper within his heart, Dimmesdale only made the guilt and regret that oppressed his mind stronger. Throughout the book, Hawthorne used the metaphor of a prison to represent the mental effects of Dimmesdale’s sins isolating him from the world and ultimately driving him insane. He chose the prison as a symbol because many criminals go insane within their jail cell due to the constant isolation that forces them to become trapped within their own mind and heart, where they are left to face the constant guilt and regret from their sins. Hawthorne brilliantly expounded upon this metaphor and symbol in relation to Dimmesdale’s life when he wrote, “...the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front”(Hawthorne 45). Through the use of the phrase “marked with weather-stains and other indications of age”, Hawthorne was able to represent the affair and its secrecy from the congregation that stained Dimmesdale’s once pure and religiously-devout soul.
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