Hypocrisy in the Scarlet Letter
“Truth was the one virtue which I might have held fast… save when thy good – thy life – thy fame – were put into question.” These words spoken by Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter display her practice of situational morals and hypocrisy. Hawthorne displays this major element of human nature, hypocrisy in all characters save young Pearl who is blatantly unique from most people. Dimmesdale, Hester, and the entire Puritan community are hypocrites, and their hypocrisy manifests itself in the conflict of this novel. Hawthorne created a drastic difference between the inward and outward lives of everyone in this story and they can be related to the hypocrisy present in modern society. People never change, hypocrisy will always be present both today in the past. Arthur Dimmesdale’s hypocrisy is the most prominent. He gives public sermons on sin meanwhile he conceals to himself his private sin of fornicating with Hester. During his sermons he tells the people he is a sinner knowing it will only make him appear as a humble saint while trying to relieve some of his guilt. His selfish act of prevarication harms not only himself but Hester and Pearl as well. Hester must suffer through taking the public shame of the scarlet letter while Dimmesdale keeps his respected and pious reputation. Pearl is bastardized by Dimmesdale’s deplorable actions and is forced to be raised by a single parent. Dimmesdale’s daughter reaches out to him asking him to stand with her and her mother on the scaffold, symbolizing Dimmesdale confessing to his sin but he declines. In many attempts to ease his own guilt, Dimmesdale commits acts of self-mutilation that only adds to the deterioration of his physical health, causing him to eventually die, stopping him from ever living a happy life with Hester and their daughter. If he been honest to the community, he would have been able to relieve himself of his guilt and have no reason to not go on and enjoy a life...
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