The Scarlet Letter

The Minister's Anguish
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is a compelling story which explores the inner emotions of the human mind, spirit, and the heart. Set around the 1640s in a Boston Puritan society, it focuses on the moral issue revolving around the virtue of truth and the evil of secret sin. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a man of profound knowledge of religion and a true devotee of God, commits a crime of passion with the young and married Hester Prynne. The Puritan society, which barely tolerates any sin, seeks out Hester Prynne and punishes her by making her wear the scarlet letter "A". Even though, Arthur Dimmesdale escapes punishment from the Puritan society, he endures an excruciating amount of pain that he brings forth onto himself. Due to the weakness in Dimmesdale's character and the guilt that comes from within, he is forced to carry the tremendous weight of concealing his sin on his soul and heart.
Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale lives in a world of hypocrisy which is brought on by the strong sense of guilt he feels that's a burden on his soul. As a minister, Dimmesdale is believed to be absolutely pure who follows his own teachings. People think, " The young divine. . . was considered by his more fervent admirers as little less that heavenly and ordained apostle. . . " (119), about the clergyman. However, Dimmesdale being a hypocrite, urges his congregations to confess their sins openly and then himself refrains from doing the same. He is afraid of what the society's reactions could be towards him and he would be released from his duties to God. Once, Dimmesdale directly tells Hester to confess at the scaffold. He says, " ' . . . Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, that to hide a guilty heart through life ' " (73). Dimmesdale preaches that a person is righteous in admitting their crime rather than carrying the guilt around for the rest of his life. Being unprincipled, Dimmesdale does the exact opposite of his own advice. As a minister of the Puritan church, Dimmesdale holds a very high position in society where everyone looks up to him as a role model. He feels very guilty in his heart knowing that he has committed a sin. People identify him as a guiltless and holy man. When people have that kind of a view for him, Dimmesdale feels even more pressured and sinful. He yearns to speak out the truth to make people abandon his false image of a perfectionist. Dimmesdale wants to say, " '. . . -I whose footsteps, as you suppose, leave a gleam along my earthy track, . . . I, -who have laid the hand of baptism upon your children, . . . -I, your pastor, whom you so reverence and trust, am utterly a pollution and lie! ' "(140). Constantly, Dimmesdale is punishing himself by allowing such feelings of torment deteriorate him emotionally. He believes he has an enormous responsibility to God and his followers. By concealing the truth from his followers, Dimmesdale feels he's deceiving God. Just as he feels sinful about living as a hypocrite, he senses pain when he realizes how much Hester and Pearl have endured.
Unable to carry on the responsibility of being a caring father and a beloved husband, Arthur Dimmesdale feels guilty. This sense of guilt consumes him, furthermore, increasing his anguish when he sees Hester suffering alone for the crime they both perpetrate. The first time Dimmesdale gets up on the scaffold with the rest of his family, he says to Hester, " ' Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. . .' "(148). Dimmesdale wants Hester to know that he realizes how hard it's been for her to go through the humiliation and suffering. At the moment, he decides to share Hester's repentance by standing next to her. Pearl, too, stands on the scaffold with them. Dimmesdales feels a lot of love for his daughter. When Pearl is about to meet Dimmesdale, he says, " ' . . . how my heart dreads this interview, and yearns for it!. . . Yet Pearl, twice in her