Yemi Salami Mrs. R. Patterson English 5 AP 22 October, 2012 Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is one troubled (and multi-faceted) man. A brilliant speaker, a kind man, a wise reverend – everyone loves this guy. He’s pretty much a rock star in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (and that doesn’t seem like such an easy feat in Puritan society). With his education and religious standing it allows him to have a larger sense of humility and understanding. So with Dimmesdale also being Hester’s illicit lover and the father of her child, Pearl. He remains silent about his sin, even while he publicly urges Hester to reveal the name of her lover.
The narrator indicates that Dimmesdale is one of those individuals who secretly practices self-flagellation (basically, beating himself) to punish himself for his sin. This suggests that he is susceptible to shame, but secretive about it; he prefers to punish himself rather than to be punished by others. It also leaves open the question that emerges later: did Dimmesdale create the mark on his chest himself, or was it put there by the Black Man (Satan), or did it emerge on his skin because of the struggle occurring in his soul?
Dimmesdale is a hypocrite through much of the book. He remains the respected and saintly minister on the outside, but his conscience eats away at him until he can hardly stand himself. He wants people to see him for who he really is. Though he tries to confess his sins to the congregation, they do not take him seriously, because he is never specific about the sins he has committed. For seven years, Dimmesdale is silent, and his health declines as a result. Today, we would maybe say he’s depressed, and that his depression is so bad that it becomes fatal.
In Christian theology, sin leads to death unless an individual accepts God’s free gift of forgiveness (this is the concept of grace). In Dimmesdale’s case, unconfessed sin literally drives him to his demise For a few moments, really just two days, we see Dimmesdale turn away from his former commitment to Christian ideas and morality. His decision to run away with Hester leaves him open to all sorts of suggestions from the Black Man. Ultimately, however, Dimmesdale’s better self reasserts itself. Although he has taken seven years to reach the point here he recognizes he is destroying himself with his guilt, the moment did finally arrive. The Reverend Dimmesdale represents a weak man who has sinned but failed to accept public condemnation for his sin. His subsequent hypocrisy, however, eats away at him until his health fails. Recognizing that death is imminent, he chooses to purify his soul at the last minute by confessing his sin publicly and revealing the scarlet letter A that has appeared on his chest over his heart. The symbol on his skin, suggests that, though we may hide our sins as best as we can, mostly they will always surface and be revealed.
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