Sin and Guilt: Dimmesdale Essay

Truth Is The Only Safe Ground To Stand Upon

In the novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is a man of secret sin, hidden guilt, but a man that must stay honest to his relationship with the church.  Arthur Dimmesdale is secretly the father of Hester’s child, little Pearl, but he must forgo his duties as a priest in complete truth, so his secret had to remain unknown to all.  He was severely ill, and after his sin Hester soon learned that there would be no happily ever. Dimmesdale was a man who had deeply sinned and it scarred his existence, something he wasn’t able to recover from.  The truth often times hurts, and sometimes never heals, but the ultimate sin had been committed and Dimmesdale chose the most worthy punishment, death.  Through honesty, confession with God, and death Dimmesdale is able to prove his good manhood, proving that he has entered through the gates of heaven instead of hell.

Dimmesdale was aware that it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but his own.  He didn’t want to take Hester and Pearl with him atop the scaffolding because Hester’s time of guilt and torment had already passed, Hester’s confession was already revealed.  With true independence he let go of the hands of Hester and Pearl as he inhaled torment and judgement atop public humiliation. As he walked up the stairs leading to the scaffolding Hawthorne writes, “He threw off all assistance, and stepped passionately forward a pace before the woman and the child” (Hawthorne 174).  Dimmesdale took hold of honesty, he reveals himself as a true man in revealing alone.  When Dimmesdale ‘walks passionately forward’ he knows that his love for Hester and little Pearl was once real, he has no regret in his sin.  Dimmesdale understands and accepts the manner in which he sinned, and finally is ready to redeem his guilt.  The way he chooses to redeem his guilt is confessing in front of the city of Boston; it was refreshing for him to come clean after seven long years, but also reveals of the honest man he has always intended to be.  That only of a true man confessing of sin, stands upon a scaffolding with no one but himself, and knows death will be his true redemption.

Dimmesdale’s sin was the only thing that was keeping his ill, sickened, and tired body alive.  The guilt he was feeling was the fuel for his survival, and once he revealed this sin he knew that it was the end for him.  He knew that the only way for forgiveness from God was to die, and fly truthfully to heaven.  As he stood on the scaffolding the day of confession he struggled to make it up the stairs.  Hester accompanied him with little Pearl by their sides, as he would make his way to the podium.  It was his biggest fear, but also the showing of a true man.  As he stood before the crowd he began with, “I should have stood; here, with this woman [Hester], whose arm, more than the little strength wherewith I have crept hitherward, sustains me, at this dreadful moment, from grovelling down upon my face” (Hawthorne, 174). Hester is resembling his guilt, she is holding him up, she is the living proof of his sin that is keeping him alive.  When she is saving him ‘from grovelling upon his face,’ she is stopping him from death.  She, as the sin, is stopping him from going peacefully, because he must go in truth and honesty because he is a well nurtured man.      

Dimmesdale confesses his sin in the only way that he knows to be true, in front of all the people he was dishonest to and through the influence of God.  As Dimmesdale has just stood atop the scaffolding and revealed his sin, Hester was standing right next to him and doesn’t hesitate to still wonder if their future still exists.  She tries to question him about what feelings that might still remain, but he is sure the future of their love will never exist.  While being honest with himself and Hester he states, “It may be, that, when we forgot our God,—-when we violated our reverence each for the other’s soul,—-it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion” (Hawthorne, 175).  Dimmesdale knows that the punishment for his sin should not reward him with this love.  He knows that this so called ‘pure reunion’ can not be possible because they ‘forgot God.’  He was dishonest to the one soul he promised he never would be, and that was God.  Dimmesdale knew that in order to redeem, he would need to part with the person he ‘violated reverence’ with, his guilt could not continue with Hester because he would be corrupt.  The manhood he embodied was that of a innocent soul, and confessing his sin for God proved him to be an honest man.

Arthur Dimmesdale hid his sin for seven long years, but after such a long time, he was able to come clean.  That only of a true man can stay hidden for so long, but still find courage to remain honest and truthful to the public.  Death was Dimmesdale’s redemption, the only way for him to feel truthfully happy and be an honest man was dying for the mistake he had made.  Death meant that he was content with God, and that was the one person that still had meaning to him.  Truth with God meant that he had forgiven himself, and that he could finally be in a better place, not struggling from pain and guilt.  After seven long years the faithful, young, and good-hearted minister had redeemed his guilt, confessed his sin, and died truthfully in the hands of God.

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54 Responses to Sin and Guilt: Dimmesdale Essay

  1. 18beaudine says:

    I decided to add another Scarlet Letter piece from this year because I loved that book. Dimmesdale was an interesting character that really helped the story move along, but also provided suspense to readers. I think his confession made the end of the book really tough to read as it leaves you to make your own assumptions of what happens now that he has confessed and then he dies. Overall it was one of my first pieces and the maturity of writing is on a scale of 1-10 about a 4.

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