Both Hester and Dimmesdale, are characters in the Scarlet Letter. They suffer with the guilt of the sin of adultery that they committed. At the time, the Puritans looked down on this type of sin. Hester and Dimmesdale can be compared and contrast in the way they handled their scarlet letter, their cowardliness, and their belief of what the afterlife is. Hester and Dimmesdale both bear a scarlet letter but the way they handle it is different. Hesters scarlet letter is a piece of clothing, the SCARLET LETTER, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom (Hawthorn 51).
Dimmesdale on the other hand, has a scarlet letter carved in his chest. This is revealed when Dimmesdale was giving his revelation, in which he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast. It was revealed! (Hawthorn 232). Since the Scarlet Letter on Hester is visible to the public, she was criticized and looked down on. This women has brought same upon us all, and ought to die (Hawthorn 49) is said by a female in the market place talking about Hester. She becomes a stronger person through living this hard life.
Dimmesdale instead has to live a life of cowardly and selfish meanness, that added tenfold disgrace and ignominy to his original crime (Loring 185). He becomes weaker and weaker by time, neither growing wiser nor stronger, but, day after day, paler and paler, more and more abject (Loring 186). Their courage is also weak. The courage that those two share is quite similar, in that they have none. They both are afraid of the public and what the public would think of them.
Hester refuses to tell anyone about her real husband, Chillingworth, who is still alive, or about her lover, Dimmesdale. Hester and Dimmesdale also try to take the cowardly way out when she has a chance to go to leave Boston and go to Europe, Her advising them to flee Boston was irresponsible (Granger 7). Hester after talking about leaving, and while in the forest with Dimmesdale and Pearl, takes the scarlet letter off. She was planning to never wear the scarlet letter again, especially after saying, The mid-ocean shall take it from my hand, and swallow it up forever!
Hawthorne 193). This shows that she did not have enough courage to bear the scarlet letter in Europe. Pearl still makes her bear the letter by saying, Come thou and take it up! (Hawthorne 193). Finally, Dimmesdale has a boost of courage on the scaffold he says he is the one sinner of the world! there stood one in the midst of you, at whose brand of sin and infamy ye have not shuddered! (Hawthorne 231- 232). He finally has the courage to admit that he had sin. After this speech, his live is coming to an end.
Hesters view of the afterlife is one in which both her and Dimmesdale will live with each other. When Dimmesdale is dying in her arms she says, Shall we not meet again? Thou lookest far into eternity, with those bright dying eyes! Then tell me what thou seest? (Hawthorne 233). By saying that she believes that they will be united in paradise (Grander 8). In that Dimmesdale replies his belief of the afterlife, we forgot our God God knows: and He is merciful! Praised be His name! His will be done! Farewell! (Hawthorne 233).
This shows that Dimmesdale does not know what the after life will be like, but he knows that it will be the way God wanted it to be. Although Dimmesdale and Hester are fictional characters their lives are good examples of what could happen between human relationships. It shows that a letter can be more hindering than the sin itself, and that the way you handle the punishment is important. It can be either publicly or internally, both have their ups and downs. Also by having the courage to tell the truth is the easiest way to be set free, even though being set free might be death.