Guilt In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

929 Words4 Pages
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty of homegrown terrorism in April of 2013. During Tsarnaev’s trial on June 24, 2013, he apologized to the injured and asked Allah to bestow peace on himself and the families. The inherent guilt people feel as a result of their sins often leads to shame and eventually confession. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, set in Puritan New England, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale lives a life of self-shame and resentment for not being able to confess his act of adultery with Hester Prynne. Dimmesdale’s shame throughout the novel reveals that the path to having a pure and clear soul is not easy. Hiding behind sins will lead to a lifetime of guilt and misery but admitting them will help one…show more content…
In the case of Dimmesdale, Hawthorne dramatically illustrates how guilt can ruin lives. Dimmesdale’s inability to confess his sins leads to self-hated and a deteriorating health. This idea is supported by Dimmesdale’s acts of self-harm which include whipping himself on the shoulders while “laughing bitterly at himself” and fasting until he faints (Hawthorne 120). The reader can sense just how much Dimmesdale loathes himself for not being able to tell others of his sin; he even laughs while whipping himself, revealing how Dimmesdale feels relief from receiving the punishment he believes he deserves. Dimmesdale’s guilt also leads to his mental and physical deterioration. Dimmesdale is “suffering from [a] bodily disease” while being “gnawed and tortured by some black trouble of the soul” (117). Dimmesdale’s physical and mental decline can be interpreted as the guilt eating away at his soul. The usage of the word “black” suggests his physical affliction is borne of his guilt and shame. He has also made it “a constant habit… to press his hand over his heart” (111). He holds his hand over his heart because it hurts him both physically and emotionally to not be able to admit his sins. Therefore, Hawthorne suggests that if one keeps their sins hidden, it is impossible to continue living life without
Open Document