A Pastor and a Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter, a romance novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in 1850. This book takes place in a Puritan society in which sin is harshly punished. Dimmesdale, a pastor of the Puritan town, has committed a great sin in which he can not say anything, for fear of what would happen to him. Arthur Dimmesdale himself persecutes his lover, Hester on the scaffold. Dimmesdale is good willed person who has experienced a great deal of grief due to his guilty conscious, which causes him to think less of himself, so that he slowly withers away to nothing.

Dimmesdale, in Hawthornes novel is portrayed as an exemplary Puritan citizen, or so they think. The sin that Dimmesdale has brought upon his Puritan society is that of adultery. It seems as if his biggest crime is, the one that stabs at his soul, was his unwillingness to stand next to Hester that first day on the scaffold and admit to his part in conception of Pearl. In the chapter The pastor and his Parishioner, he makes it clear it is his guilt over Hester standing alone and not the sexual act that plagues him so deeply.

He even admits to her that their act had a consecration of its own. Their coalition was one spawned from deep love and his guilt over not admitting this publicity is his worst sin. Dimmesdales grief is caused partly by a Roger Chillingworth, a man with a black man inside of him. The first time Chillingworth tries to get Dimmesdale to own up to his faults, was at the Governors Hall when he says, in regard to Dimmesdales defense of Hester You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness. Chillingworth has a good idea in his head, on who helped conceive Pearl.

Dimmesdale does not realize he is talking to an enemy, not a friend. He does not find truth in Chillingworth till the later chapters. Another incident takes place in the graveyard, where Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale were talking. Chillingworth tries to scare Dimmesdale in to confess his sins, They grew out of his heart, and typify it may be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and which he had done better to confess during his lifetime. At this moment Dimmesdale was feeling very inadequate.

He can not understand Roger Chillingworths fascination with the situation. He does not understand why one of his friends Chillingworth is doing this to him either. Dimmesdale tortures himself due to the grief in his heart and the guilt in conscious. Somewhere deep in this novel it talks of Dimmesdale whipping and lashing himself till he is bloody. Dimmesdale cannot convince even himself that he has done right in not confessing. He is so over powered with guilt, yet he can not bring himself to confess, in fear of what the others might do to him.

Hawthorne does not make it clear, but the expression on Chillingworths face just about sums it up, The physician advanced directly in front of his patient, laid his hand upon his bosom, and thrust aside the vestment, that, hitherto, had always covered it even from the professional eye. Dimmesdale is so grief stricken that he turns to self-mutilation. He feels that with pain he can relieve the other pain that is caused by guilt, that dwells deep within his own heart. This is why he is always holding on to his heart.

What was to be gained by Chillingworth revealing Dimmesdale secret? What would that serve? Just imagine if Hester, Pearl and Dimmesdale had escaped. If Dimmesdale had confessed in the first place they would not have had to run away. The worst that would have happened to Dimmesdale is he could have been executed. One might believe he would have enjoyed execution rather than telling of his sins, which go entirely against the Puritan and Christian way of living. He dies slowly, because he can not talk to the woman he loves, the mother of his child.