The Worst of Them All. An essay on "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 12th gradeA, April 1997

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In 'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne, many characters sin. However, Arthur Dimmesdale, the church priest, commits the worst sins. Hester Prynne commits several sins, but none are even comparable to Dimmesdale's sins. Even Roger Chillingworth's sins, spawned by pure hatred, pale in comparison the sins of Arthur Dimmesdale.

Hester Prynne was unfaithful to her husband, Roger Chillingworth. She commits adultery with Arthur Dimmesdale, and for her sins she is forced to wear a scarlet letter, professing her sin to all. As bad as her sin was, she confesses it, and receives absolution. After her confession, she bears her punishment alone, even when the entire town is calling for her to reveal the other guilty party. She remains faithful to Arthur Dimmesdale, a commendable quality. Even when Dimmesdale himself beseeches her to reveal the sinner, she steadfastly refuses in silence.

The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bend his head, in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward.

'Hester Prynne,' said he, leaning over the balcony, and looking down stedfastly into her eyes, 'thou hearest what this good man says...I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow sufferer!'....So powerful seemed the minister's appeal, that the people could not believe but that Hester Prynne would speak out the guilty name...Hester shook her head. (61-62)

Had she exposed Dimmesdale's sin, her punishment would have been lessened. Instead of selfishly revealing Dimmesdale as the other sinner, and decreasing her punishment, she takes on both of their punishments, and wears the letter until she leaves the town.

Hester receives punishment for her sin. Once the scarlet letter is placed on her breast, she stops sinning. Her greatest sins after receiving punishment were not revealing Dimmesdale's identity. Even this sin, meager, was done not to...