Short note on Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter

In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) establishes a duality between religiousness and sin. These two qualities are ironically found in the character of Arthur Dimmesdale.   

Dimmesdale, as a religious minister   

Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale is presented as a faithful and religious minister. Hawthorne primarily portrays this by detailing the power of Dimmesdale’s sermons. The is a great effect of Dimmesdale’s sermon on his congregation. Additionally, Dimmesdale is depicted as a person of decaying emotional stability, who digresses into a nervous collapse as the story progresses. He becomes physically weak and displays his internal trouble by placing his hand over his heart.  

More Notes: The Scarlet Letter

Dimmesdale, as a hypocrite   

Hawthorne further establishes Dimmesdale’s character through the mirror of hypocrisy. Especially through the questions that his illegitimate daughter Pearl presents. Hawthorne uses both direct and indirect characterization to present the character of Dimmesdale as pious and hypocritical. At the very outset, Dimmesdale is first introduced to the readers, as a faithful minister and religious pillar of the community. He is fulfilling his religious duties perfectly. But his hypocrisy becomes clear after the birth of her illegitimate child Pearl.  

Dimmesdale is a character with a guilty conscience   

Hawthorne also establishes him as a character with a guilty conscience. This is proved in Dimmesdale’s emotional state which becomes clear as the story progresses. Hawthorne shows this when Dimmesdale stands above Hester while she is on the scaffold. The crowd tried to pressurize her to reveal who her fellow sinner is. Actually, Dimmesdale is the fellow sinner of Hester Prynne. So, his sense of guilt awakes here.   

More Notes: Suggestions

Dimmesdales sense of remorse  

Dimmesdale is able to publicly hide his guilt but he exposes his sin to the audience due to the extreme guilt that he feels. Here his sense of remorse awakens. Pearl asks him  

“Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, tomorrow at noon. 

So, in the end, the gives identity to her illegitimate daughter Pearl. Thus, he feels better accepting his own sin that he has done with Hester.  

Hawthorne portrays Arthur Dimmesdale as a character who is spiritual, guilty, and hypocritical. Dimmesdale is a character who can move crowds with his religious sermon. However, the intense guilt that he feels over committing adultery with Hester causes him to decline into a physical and mental nervous collapse. Dimmesdale is forced to unite his religiousness and shame in order to accept his sin. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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