He, in fact, faced a constant inward struggle with his immense guilt of having sinned with Hester. Hawthorne uses Dimmesdale to represent the conflict love versus hate in that Dimmesdale does both. He has a great deal of love for Hester and Pearl, and even the people he preaches to. However, due to his overactive conscience and his desperate struggle for salvation in the afterlife "above all things else, he loathed his miserable self," for committing what the Puritan community believed to be a terrible sin (Hawthorne 141). Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale self- inflicts suffering in the form of extreme fasting and whipping on his shoulders and back.
Dimmesdale’s masochistic and pious attributes greatly contribute to the extent of his alienation. For the reverend it was “essential to his peace to feel the pressure of a faith about him.” This need for punishment coupled with religious devotion gives reason for Dimmesdale’s secrecy. Hiding his intimate self from other people bestows Dimmesdale the punishment he so desperately seeks. His mental breakdown stemming from his social alienation is most clearly shown in the chapter the “The Minister’s Vigil”. His self-torture leads him to walk “under the influence of a species of somnambulism”, thinking irrationally in a way not like himself.
In the story the Narrator says to Doodle “Well, if you don’t keep trying, you’ll never learn” (page unknown). Being impatient made the Narrator push his brother beyond his limit and eventually lead to his death. The Narrator is also a cruel person. Ironically, the only person the Narrator was cruel towards was his brother. In the story the Narrator says “There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle” (page unknown).
In the story both the characterization and conflict help to show how “pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” The characterization of the narrator allows the reader to see the problem brought about by having too much pride. The author’s use of indirect characterization in “The Scarlet Ibis” is one way the story relates to the quote. In the beginning of the story, the narrator said, “It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow.” This demonstrates that the narrator has a hard time dealing with his brother’s disability. The author allows the reader to see how desperate the narrator is to have a typical life with an ordinary family. The narrator feels that it is one thing for Doodle to be disabled, but he would rather do away with Doodle than deal with the embarrassment of having him in his life if he were mentally weak as well.
To the outside world, he is the model Reverend. He assumes the posture of one totally innocent regarding such misdeeds; in fact, he condemns them. As his parishioners note, “he took it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should have come upon his congregation.” (Hawthorne). When Hester is forced to stand upon a scaffold in public view as atonement for her sin, The Scarlet Letter A (for Adulteress emblazoned upon the bosom of her garment, it is Dimmesdale who self-righteously implores her: “I charge thee speak out the name of thy fellow sinner and fellow-sufferer!” (Hawthorne 73). When the clergy elect to take the child, Pearl, away from Hester, considering her unfit to
It felt to Hester as though the red cloth emanated a “burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron” (30). As beautiful and as ornately designed as the letter was, it was created as a symbol of shame to be worn by Hester and to be seen and condemned by everyone in the town. Hawthorne’s decision for the letter to be red can be seen as symbolic, as the color can represent the pain that Hester has with the situation. It can also be seen as the death of her innocence as she is judged by society. Later in the novel the color red is used to describe Pearl, called a “scarlet vision” by the narrator (101).
In Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the Puritanical code of justice circulates pain as a ‘machine of punishment, cursing those who break the law as well as those who uphold it; Hawthorne characterizes this in the conflict between the so-called law upholders and the ‘sinners’. In the book, the first to experience the pain of the code of justice is Hester; her sin against the code dooms her to be judged by her peers by her scarlet letter:” Throughout them all ,giving up her individuality ,she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman’s fragility and sinful passion.”(73)Hester’s sin ultimately condemns her to live a life as
Trying the fight through this deception his illness becomes more apparent and Dimmesdale begins to see that a confession is eminent. In addition to his chicanery he also begins to feel guilty about the situation he is in. While the deceiving members of the community played a role in his confession, his personal guilt was more of a factor leading to this occurrence. For example “His inward trouble drove him to practices more in accordance with the old, corrupted faith of Rome, than with the better light of the church in which he had been born and bred. In Mr. Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge” (Hawthorne 133).
When he is alone he beats and tortures himself because of the deep pain he feels for not confessing his sin. Dimmesdale also becomes very sick mentally because of the pain he puts himself through and also the pain of guilt that is built up inside him. When Dimmesdale is out in public he is seen as a pure Minister. To the Puritan community Dimmesdale is seen as a saint. This results in Dimmesdale having to hide his guilt when he is out in public, which in return slowly destroys his soul because he usually is not put into a position where he must lie.
Throughout history, people have committed all types of sins, and whether they are major or minor, people have been punished. In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, deals with a never-ending theme of sin. Hester Prynne is being publicly ridiculed for committing adultery and has to wear a red scarlet letter due to her sin. She also has a daughter with the name of pearl who is believed to be evil and also symbolizes Hester’s sin. Nathaniel Hawthorne, allows the reader to interpret the scarlet letter in his novel in many different ways.