The Scarlet Letter: Arthur Dimmesdale as Protagonist.

Essay by robwillmsHigh School, 10th gradeB+, January 2004

download word file, 14 pages 3.0

"Hidden Guilt Abolishes Selfhood"

Those who keep their sins and feelings to themselves cause themselves only anguish and despair. In The Scarlet Letter, a romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is a young man who achieved fame in England as a theologian and then immigrated to America. In a moment of weakness, he and Hester Prynne, a young, beautiful, married woman whose husband is away in Europe, become lovers. Although he will not confess it publicly, Dimmesdale is the father of her child; also, he deals with the guilt by tormenting himself physically and psychologically, developing a heart condition in the process. Dimmesdale is an intelligent and emotional man, and his sermons are thus masterpieces of eloquence and persuasiveness. His commitments to his congregation are in constant conflict with his feelings of sinfulness and need to confess. He lives behind a false self for many years while unknowingly living beside Hester's husband, finally his true self appears and he is redeemed of his sins as he admits them publicly.

Selfhood can be achieved when a hypocritical persona is rejected and the true self consistently emerges. Dimmesdale is shown as the protagonist of the romance through Hawthorne's use of characterization, conflict, by showing the transformation of Dimmesdale, and by showing that Roger Chillingworth and Dimmesdale's own guilt oppose him.

Hawthorne uses characterization throughout The Scarlet Letter to show Dimmesdale as the protagonist. 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, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is the character portrayed as the most inadequate. 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...