Scaelet Letter Essay, Research Paper
In the novel The Scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne the society of a Puritan town exclude anyone who is in any way deviant and considers that person as being sinful. In order to fit in the people are willing to conceal and contain their passion and all their faults because of their fear of being excluded. In Hawthorne s book he shows how hidden guilt can cause more suffering than open guilt. He demonstrates this through Hester Pyrnne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Both characters share the same guilt, but are punished in different ways. Hester s punishment is to wear the letter A on her bosom which is a symbol for adultery. Dimmesdale s punishment is to deal with his guilt in private. Although, Hester s punishment seem worse than Dimmesdale, it s not. Hester experiences open guilt though public punished for her sin. She s forced to stand on the scaffold for hours to be ridiculed and ostracized by the community. Then she is expelled from the town as an adulteress, and goes to live with her illegitimate daughter to a cottage not in close vicinity to any other habitation. (pg. 68) However, by being separated from the Puritan town of Salem and all its prejudices, Hester is able to look at the people objectively and see much she was not able to see before. walking to and fro, with those lonely footsteps, in the little world with which she was outwardly connected, it now and then appeared to Hester that [ the scarlet letter] gave her a sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in others hearts. (pg.73) The puritans of the town are so busy covering up their faults and hiding their feelings, that they cannot see their own or each others faults. Hester, who wears her sinly mark openly, does not have to worry about others opinions, and gains an intuition, an insight into the hearts of others. Because Hester s guilt is exposed for everyone to see she becomes stronger, more enduring, and even more sympathetic. She becomes stronger because of all the weight she has to carry. Hester s mark of shame becomes a mark of being different, a mark of nonconformity. After a period of time, many people interpret Hester s A as able (141), for Hester s natural energy. She shows her skills through good deeds, and takes pride in her time of shame. In the beginning when Hester is led back to thee prison from the platform on the pillory, It was whispered that the scarlet letter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage-way of the interior. (58) Hester s mark becomes the guiding light throughout her whole which help her get stronger. Her open guilt made her a much stronger person unlike Dimmesdale; his guilt ate him up until there was nothing left.
Dimmesdale refuses to admit that he committed adultery and thereby eventually suffers hidden guilt. He instantaneous response to the sin is to lie. He is considered a very important man in the community and doesn t, or is to afraid to ruin his reputation. Even though he never actually says that he is not the father, but he implies it by talking of the father as the third person. Such as, if thou feelest it to be for the souls peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-suffer. After a while Dimmesdale becomes weaker by letting guilt and grief eat away at his conscience, reducing him to a pathetic creature. Dimmesdale punishes himself by believing that he can never be redeemed. He feels that he cannot be acceptable in the eyes of God, and that no amount of punishment can ever return him to God s good graces. When Hester says that his good deeds will count for something in gods view, he exclaims, There is no substance in it! It is cold and dead and can do nothing for me! (pg. 202) an inability to confess causes Dimmesdale great anguish and self hatred. At one point in the book he lashes himself with a whip, and at the end of the book it is revealed that he carves a letter A into his chest. The largest cause of Dimmesdale s suffering is the fact that he keeps his sin hidden, in secret. Which, eventually cause his death.
Both, Hester and Dimmesdale are prisoners of their guilt, but the only difference is that one of them breaks free and redeems her self. Instead of The letter A being a punishment it was more like a teacher and saver, to Hester Prynne she learned from her mistakes and also learned to live with her sin. Unlike Hester, Dimmesdale is a prisoner of his guilt instead of learning from his mistakes he keeps them a secret, which eventually cause his down fall. Both characters demonstrate how a hidden guilt cause more suffering than an open guilt.