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Scarlet Letter Essay

By johnnyo Feb 16, 2009 429 Words
Randall Stewart, a literary critic, had the following to say about Hester and Dimmesdale: “…but Hester is not the protagonist, the chief actor and the tragedy of The Scarlet Letter is not her tragedy but Arthur’s. He is the persecuted one, the tempted one. He was whom the sorrows of death encompassed…his public confession is one of the noblest climaxes of tragic literature.” This quote by Stewart contradicts the ideas that I think were contained in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and therefore I do not agree with this quote. In my opinion, Dimmesdale is a hypocritical and cowardly man.

Dimmesdale can be thought of as a man who wants to delve into the hormonal world. However, the world that he lives in is a Puritan one and the society looks down upon sexuality. As a religious figure, Dimmesdale’s image is that of a person who is devoted to higher things and thus, it is very difficult for him to just move on after losing his innocence like other men his age would do. Instead, he must fight so that he can find himself where he was before he had an adulterous affair with Hester. He is torn between an urge to confess and expiate for his sin and the cowardice that makes him unable to do so. In his pain and agony, Dimmesdale goes to the pulpit to confess but his words are merely declarations of guilt that come across as generalized and without any meaning. It is obvious that Dimmesdale would like to reveal the truth, but his shame, along with the influence of Roger Chillingworth, are much stronger than his pathetically weak conscience. It is all too apparent that Dimmesdale is not able to give up his identity, which garners him admiration and affection from his followers. In order to willingly reveal his adulterous sin, Dimmesdale would have to be less selfish. The problem that Dimmesdale has throughout the course of this novel is that he truly is not much of a minister at all. This is because he has lost his faith, and therefore he is false to his followers, his God, and himself.

In the end, there is no doubt that Dimmesdale is a true coward. Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale has chances to confess his sin. However, he does not seize these chances due to his position as a revered minister and when he finally does confess his sin, it is not a true confession and Randall Stewart is therefore false about Dimmesdale when it comes to his quote.

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