The Scarlet Letter is a story of characters that have to live and deal with the effects of sin in different ways.  Of these characters, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is the character portrayed as the weakest and ennoble.

Despite this portrayal, Dimmesdale was a stronger character than given credit for.  His unbelievable amount of control in his way of handling his burdens displays his great sense of strength and intellect.

We first see Dimmesdale portrayed as a nervous and sensitive individual. Despite his outer appearance, Dimmesdale is a very stable, strong person. Chapter Three states that he showed, ‘nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-restraint. ‘While this seems to give Dimmesdale great strength, it is also his largest flaw.

His body refuses to do what his heart says is right. Dimmesdale instructs Hester to reveal the truth, but when she refuses he doesn’t have the willpower to confess himself.  Therefore, his sin becomes even larger than hers, because while hers is an exposed sin.  He continues to lie to himself and his followers by keeping his secret hidden, so he is a concealed sin.

Here Hawthorne shows us just how strong Dimmesdale actually is, by allowing him to hide his sin and bear the weight of it, he creates an extremely interesting and tremendously strong character.  The scaffold is the place that Dimmesdale shows the amount of pain and self-loathing he is truly capable of concealing. 

He realizes that he is as much at fault for Hester‘s torment as any common villager, if not even more so. Seven years prior, Hester stood in this place and took the punishment for both of them while he quietly stood aside and led people to believe that he also condemned her.  During those long seven years, he made no move to lessen her load or his own.

Now Dimmesdale has had all that he can bear and lets out a yell that draws the attention of fellow villagers.  He curses himself for his silence and cowardice. On the scaffold in chapter 23, the true sign of strength is revealed.  

To admit he is wrong takes strength, but the way that he held in his sin thus committing two, one of the original sin, and two of the concealment,  then confessing after years of frustrating cowardice takes a stronger man.

This confession also in front of his loyal followers, who had stood by him without a clue of his guilt.  His demise was from the drain of his will which was worn and lacking. Dimmesdale was not courageous in his actions in the story but strong.

He was able to carry the burdens, frustration, and pain throughout his life. Whether he was good, brave, or right in what he did is to remain unseen but the fact that he was strong is certain.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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