There comes a point in time when each citizen of the world should ask themselves: Have I ever lied to my parents? Have I ever cheated on a test? Have I ever stolen, coveted, or perhaps committed adultery? All supernatural and religious beliefs and preferences aside. No mortal man can claim to have lived a life free of mistakes. So, no one person can rightfully point their finger in judgement, when he too has fallen short of perfection. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne contrasts between outward appearance and inner secrets using elaborate symbolism, distinct irony, and theatrical dialogue to develop his argument that hypocrisy is eminent in all societies.
The Scarlet Letter portrays the townspeople as a fierce and judgmental group symbolizing the hypocritical characteristics in the members of a society. The puritan society of this novel views adultery as a serious and unforgivable crime. The townspeople place social status and high respect for Dimmesdale over the reality of his actions. Though Hester and Dimmesdale committed the same sin, the priest cannot be moved from his holy position at the pulpit. While Hester is persecuted and burdened with “ignominy” for the rest of her life. The puritan people claim to stand for the forgiveness of sins, yet they show only conditional forgiveness in their own town. This is evident in modern society as well. One’s social rank is largely factored into the consideration of their punishment. So much so that if ones rank is high and prestigious enough, their crime may not even be considered itself. This is evident in Chapter 11 when Dimmesdale means to confess, “Would not the people start up in their seats, by a simultaneous impulse, and tear him down out of the pulpit which he defiled? Not so, indeed! They heard it all, and did but reverence him the more. They little guessed what deadly purport lurked in those self-condemning words. "The godly youth!" said they among themselves.” Dimmesdale is so highly extolled that even his confession wasn’t enough to convince the people that he was capable of the same unforgivable sin as Hester. The puritan people who claim to be Christian are symbols of the hypocritical Pharisees of society. They point fingers at those of low social status more so than those in a higher position simply because the well-respected-much like Dimmesdale- are supposed to be holy.
Hawthorne uses the color black throughout the novel to symbolize Dimmesdale's inner turmoil and guilt. After delivering a speech condemning sin, Dimmesdale discovers this black glove as a reminder of his hypocrisy and guilt in front of the pulpit. The sexton then exclaims, “a pure hand needs no glove to cover it!” alluding to Dimmesdale’s use of black clothing to hide the ‘A’ on his chest. This discovery further drives Dimmesdale to confess his adulterous sin. The glove symbolizes a mask utilized to hide the daunting truth behind Dimmesdale's deeds. Much like a black glove hides a sinner’s hand, his black clothes camouflage the tell-tale sign of sin on Dimmesdale. This notion is hypocrital because Dimmesdale is supposedly the most pious person on the town, but in contrast, he wears black clothing concealing his internal torture. This scene, reveals that even in an orthodox community, sin is a part of human nature and cannot be avoided. Hawthorne's ubiquitous use dark colors symbolizes Dimmesdale's emotional distress which is evident throughout the descriptions of him.
In tandem with Dimmesdale's dark clothing, The letter 'A' is a reoccurring symbol throughout the novel. When Hester and Pearl join Dimmesdale on the scaffold during his vigil, a meteor illuminates the sky a deep red, leaving the remnants of an ‘A’ in its trail. later, The meteor is another occurrence of the symbol ‘A’ in the novel. The meteor casts a red glow upon Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale; the red of sin and passion, a symbolic color throughout the Scarlet Letter, making an appearance once...
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