In the novel, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, what appears to be Hester Prynnes tragedy becomes the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdales suffering and depression, despite the letter “A” boldly present on her chest. Revered Dimmesdales affair with Hester Prynne continuously troubles his conscience; seeing that no other person feels as guilty, the minister is the most tragic character in the novel. At the time when this novel takes place, not only ministers, but ordinary people of the town took religion very serious.
With great displeasure, Hester Prynne takes her punishment of eing shunned from the people of her society, and by covering it up and secreting her sin, Pearls significant contribution to Hesters life acts as a cure to her misdeeds, while no one to turn to, Dimmesdales guilty conscience is buried within, eventually destroying Hester Prynnes sin of adultery had a big impact on herself as well as the entire community. All the people looked at her as worthless and dishonest. Her mistake had shunned her from the society. She quoted: “I happened to place it on my breast.
It seemed to me, then that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, s of burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron. ” (31) At the time, no one knew the whereabouts of her partner. She had felt extremely lonely and disappointed; the thought of her being shunned from the community was beyond her belief. Her last hope was Pearl. By no means did she have to suffer as well. To many people, the forest is a good and happy place full of nature and respect, but in New England at this time of witchery, it spelled evil and had horror written all over it.
It is one day that Hester Prynne and Pearl meet Dimmesdale in the forest. After a onversation about Hester, it is now time for Arthur to share what is on his worried, confused mind. With a self-esteem already low he vigorously puts forth: “Of penance, I have had enough! Of penitence there has been none! Else, I should long ago I have thrown these garments of mock holiness, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgement-seat. Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! “(176) Dimmesdale clearly sees that Hester is no longer worried or feels guilt inside himself.
For him, it seems almost ludicrous that Hester feels the way she does. With Pearl at her side, Hester has someone to turn to for hope, and thats exactly what she has done. Reverend Dimmesdale has had a lonely journey of guilt. With no one to turn to, his sin “burns in secret. ” It is not until the middle of the novel that we find out the true pain suffered by Arthur Dimmesdale. As a Minister of the town, he plays a very significant role, even a noble role as a servant to god. With his churning conscience inside the minister decides to take a walk in the middle of the night when no one is about and perhaps free himself of guilt.
Why then had he come hither (seeing that it was the middle of the night)? Was it but the mockery of penitence? A mockery, indeed, but in which his soul trifled itself! A mockery at which angles blushed and wept, while friends rejoiced, with jeering laughter! He had been driven hither by the impulse of remorse which dogged him everywhere”(142). Up until this point in the novel, Dimmesdale had shown almost no affection for his affair with Hester Prynne, but inside his sinfulness burned with agony. The ultimate significance of such a bizarre journey was the interchanging of Hester and
Arthurs guilt. It is from here on in the novel that Dimmesdales culpable conscience Hester, so desperately trying to save what little good conscience Dimmesdale might have left, cannot help but cry and weep in concern for his well being. At this point, if it were for not her willingness to save Arthur, he would most likely have eventually committed to suicide, sinning once again. With a much lower act of aggression, Dimmesdale sadly cannot help himself resist his blameworthy act as a minister of God. He tragically quotes: “It were far worse than death!
But how to avoid it? Shall I lay down again on these withered leaves, where I cast myself when thou didst tell me what he was? Must I sink down there, and die at once? ” (180), a very true, open statement by Dimmesdale, perhaps his best in the novel. Seven years ago it was Hester who had been in the shoes of Dimmesdale. She had once longed to be free of guilt and apart of her society. Now, in a state of no hope or belief, Arthur can picture the near future of his life. “Must I sink down there and die at once”. He refers to “down there” as Hell.
His feelings here are brought to him, not under his own conscience, but under the ministerial beliefs of God. As result of his religion he has a tremendous fear of Hell. In the novel The Scarlet Letter proved to be nothing more than a sign of Adultery upon the bosom of Hester Prynne. Hester, as well as Pearl, is able to overcome the shame and dishonor it brings to their self-esteem. As a minister to God and no one to turn to, the tragic sin of adultery causes great suffering in the life of the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. More so than any other character in the novel.