Dealing with guilt might be the most difficult thing a person has to do sometimes and the way they deal with it might either make them a stronger and better person or destroy them. In the book the scarlet letter we see how a group of people are affected by a sin, which is adultery and how the sinners deal with the guilt. The way they deal with it also defines how much they suffer from this sin and Hester and Dimmsdale both deal with guilt in two completely different ways.
Everyone knew Hester was a sinner because she always had to wear the scarlet letter on her chest. She accepted the consequences of her actions and forgave herself for what she did. She also wore the scarlet letter almost proudly and didn't let what people think get to her as much. Because of what she did she was isolated from other people but she learned how to live in solitude with her daughter and that made her a stronger and better person.
That is clearly stated by Hawthorne in this paragraph,"She had wandered, without rule or guidance, into a moral wilderness. Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places, where she roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers - stern and wild ones - and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss."(S.L p. 183)Reverend Mr. Dimmsdale was the other sinner but the world didn't know about him. He chose not to tell people about what he did and the guilt grew inside him. The more time passed the more miserable he got and from just mental pain it started to show physically. He looked weaker and sick.
The people of the town didn't know why the reverend was looking so sick so they thought it would be good if Roger Chillingworth, the doctor would move in with Dimmsdale. No one except Hester knew that Roger Chillingworths real name was Roger Prynne and he was Hester's husband in England, and that we wanted to get revenge on Mr. Dimmsdale. When Dimmsdale agreed to let Chillingworth move in with him he didn't know who Chillingworth was. Every day Chillingworth would talk to Dimmsdale about guilt just to make him suffer more. In a few words Hawthorn describes Chillingworth in this sentence, "He now dug into the poor clergy man s heart, like a miner searching for gold, or like a sexton delving into a grave" (S.L p. 118). A great example of that was this question Chillingworth asked Dimmsdale, "Why should a wretched man, guilty, we will say, of murder, prefer to keep the dead corpse buried in his own heart, rather than fling it forth at once, and let the universe take care of it!" (S.L p.121)After many years no one knew what Reverend Mr. Dimmsdale did and everyone thought he was so saintly which made Dimmsdale even more miserable. He became even sicker knowing that everyone thought he was such a great person but in reality he was the greatest sinner of them all, and as time passed he was getting confused about who he really was. To describe that Hawthorn said "No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true." (S.L p.197)As we can see Dimmsdale suffered for a long time because he kept his sin secret and he was too scared to face the consequences. That made him depressed for many years and he wasn't the same person he was seven years ago, but I also think that Dimmsdale didn't tell his secret because he only wanted it to be reveal it on his judgment day because in a conversation when Chillingworth told him that he got a dark ugly plant from a grave and the plant grew out of the persons heart because of his secrets sins Dimmsdalesaid, "There can be, if I forbode aright, no power, short of the Divine mercy, to disclose, whether by uttered words, or by type or emblem, the secrets that may be buried with a human heart. The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed. Nor have I so read or interpreted Holy Writ, as to understand that the disclosure of human thoughts and deeds, then to be made, is intended as a part of the retribution. That, surely, were a shallow view of it. No; these revelations, unless I greatly err, are meant merely to promote the intellectual satisfaction of all intelligent beings, who will stand waiting, on that day, to see the dark problem of this life made plain. A knowledge of men's hearts will be needful to the completest solution of that problem. And I conceive, moreover, that the hearts holding such miserable secrets as you speak of will yield them up, at that last day, not with reluctance, but with a joy unutterable."After 7 years he decided to confess to the world, that was the same day he was going to give the speech for Election Day which was the biggest achievement in his career. That day people noticed that he looked healthier than usual but they didn't know why. At the end of the speech he announced his secret and died on the spot for unknown reasons. In my opinion he suffered most because the guilt from keeping his sin a secret made him miserable for the rest of his life and he didn't live longer like everyone else that was affected by this sin to try and get his life back together.
Bibliography - The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne