Dimmesdale a weakling
Uploaded by Brent Goodin on Feb 15, 2002
In Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is a self-confessed coward and hypocrite. He is fully aware of the means by which he must liberate his soul from the confines of his grave sin, and make his concord with God. Yet, throughout the story his confession remains an impediment, constraining him, from then onwards, to a life of atonement. Reverend Dimmesdale’s guilt complex causes him to cultivate a crop of internal conflicts. He attempts to divest himself of his peccadillo by revealing it to his parishioners during services, but somehow never manages to accomplish the task, illuminating the reader of what he truly is, a pathetic weakling.
For the most part, Dimmesdale's story is one of a lonely man who has given into temptation and desire. His carnal craving is looked upon with ignominy. The matter is further convoluted by Hester's marriage, and his unwillingness to mar his reputation among the villagers as the faithful and innocent priest. He is now stranded at a crossroad, not knowing whether to confess or carry on a life of self-punishment. The sin begins to gnaw away at his sanity. As a form of penance he partakes in late night vigils, starvation, and self-mutilation. His acts of penance were severe and drained him of much of his life force. Finally becoming fed up with his prolonged misery, he walked unsteadily to the podium to expose his secret, but his confession was ambiguous and inconclusive, and people thought he was speaking about the sins of humanity.
Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale has many opportunities to confess.
One of the very first moments available to Dimmesdale to confess was on the scaffolding in the beginning when Hester was publicly humiliated in front of the townspeople. Dimmesdale was preaching to her for hours without end about her sin, yet he was her co-sinner. “If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer!” (59) He asked whom it was she had this adulterous affair with. Dimmesdale now has the perfect opportunity to confess and he does not because he is frightened. He could have easily admitted his sin and endured the wrath of Puritan society, but he made it linger.
There was also a time during story when Dimmesdale...