Secrets in Scarlet Letter

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Scarlet Letter-Secret Theme
One of the main themes in The Scarlet Letter is that of the secret. The plot of the book is centered around Hester Prynne’s secret sin of adultery. Nathaniel Hawthorne draws striking parallelism between secrets held and the physical and mental states of those who hold them. The Scarlet Letter demonstrates that a secret or feeling kept within slowly engulfs and destroys the soul, while a secret made public can allow a soul to recover and even strengthen.

When a secret is hidden inside it can engulf and even destroy a person. Arthur Dimmesdale, a revered young minister in the town, demonstrates what happens to the soul. Dimmesdale, as it is later made known, commits the serious crime of adultery with a young married woman named Hester Prynne living in the Plymouth Colony. Because of Hester’s unwillingness to reveal her partner in sin, and Dimmesdale’s fear of persecution and most of all humiliation, the minister is forced to keep his sin a secret. So he watches as Hester is placed before her peers on a platform in front of the whole town and is then called to speak to her and urge that she reveal her fellow adulterer. In essence, he is called upon to commit yet another sin, that of hypocrisy. Dimmesdale’s accumulated sins build inside of him, constantly afflicting his soul until it begins to affect him negatively. Thinking himself a hypocrite, he tries to ease his conscience and requite his sin by scourging himself on the chest during the night, fasting for days on end and even climbing the same platform on which Hester began her humiliation.

Walking in the shadow of a dream, as it were, and perhaps actually under the influence of a species of somnambulism (sleepwalk), Mr. Dimmesdale reached the spot where, now so long since, Hester Prynne had lived through her first hours of public ignominy. The same platform or scaffold, black and weather-stained with the storm or sunshine of seven long...
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