In Nathaniel Hawthorne's torrid tale of The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale, a main character, is confronted with a number of circumstances, both in and out of his control, that lead to his ultimate demise. While it can be argued that Arthur is a tragic hero, he lacks the underlying goodness and strength essential for him to fulfill this role. Otherwise, it may be demonstrated that Arthur meets all the criteria as a tragic hero, though there are other discrepancies to be noted.
Arthur Dimmesdale, a minister, lives his life under the watchful yet admiring eye of the townspeople of Boston and, as a result, becomes a slave to the public opinion. His sin against Hester and Pearl is that he will not acknowledge them as his wife and daughter in the daylight. He keeps his dreadful secret from all those under his care in the church for seven years for fear that he will lose their love and they will not forgive him. He is too weak to admit his sins openly and in their entirety. Instead, he allows his parishioners to lift him in their esteem by confessing, in all humility, that he is a sinner: "The minister well knew--subtle but remorseful hypocrite that he was!--the light in which his vague confession would be viewed." (127) They love him all the more for his honest and humble character, and this is Arthur's intent. Even as he plans to run away with Hester four days after their meeting in the forest, he comforts himself with the knowledge that he will give his sermon on predestination on the third day, and thus will leave his community with fond memories of his final exhortation. Arthur's flaw can be found in the fact that he chooses to value the public view above those of Hester, his love, and God, his master.
Arthur, punishing himself for his ugly secret, which his need for public affirmation will not let him reveal, gradually kills himself through guilt and masochistic ritual.
His inward trouble...