Arthur Dimmesdale Character Analysis Essay Example

Many wrong decisions in life come from an inability to reason with oneself. This idea is explained by the life of Arthur Dimmesdale, a character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter. He accomplishes this explanation by discussing Dimmesdale’s actions and how they affect his philosophical views and his motivations throughout the novel. Hawthorne characterizes Dimmesdale as trapped and fearful through his use of abstract diction and visual imagery. 

In order to further delve into the characterization of Dimmesdale, Hawthorne alludes to the concept of private sin. Specifically, he mentions the effects that the burden of Dimmesdale’s sin has on Dimmesdale through various recounts of the events. For example, in Chapter 12, Hawthorne states, “...Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart.” Here, Hawthorne uses abstract diction through the discussion of the “universe” and the imaginary Scarlet Letter that appeared on Dimmesdale.

Through the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne explores the mark of Dimmesdale’s sin that Dimmesdale must carry in private. He is also emphasizing how the Reverend feels that he is defined by his sin, which creates an image of Dimmesdale’s mental well-being. Hawthorne uses another quote to prove how Dimmesdale is trapped: “Without any effort of his will or power to restrain himself, he shrieked aloud; an outcry that went peeling through the night; and was beaten back from one house to another, and reverberated from the hills in the background.” Hawthorne describes the release of Dimmesdale’s pent up rage, frustration, and helplessness from being burdened by his sin.

He uses the abstract diction when mentioning how the scream echoed all around Dimmesdale. Through the discussion of the scream, the author is likening Dimmesdale to a trapped animal in a cage because the Reverend is forced to confront the consequences of his sin, secluded from the townsfolk. However, he is made to satisfy and advise people through his role as a minister on the outside. Overall, in Chapter 12, Hawthorne examines the effect of Dimmesdale’s suffering on himself through the visual image of the Scarlet Letter and the auditory image of Dimmesdale’s pain-stricken cry. 

Later, in Chapter 23, Hawthorne converts the image of Dimmesdale into a prophet or a seer, who is fearful of the wrath of God. For example, “I fear! I fear! It may be, that, when we forgot our God—when we violated our reverence for each other’s soul—it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion” (Chapter 23). Hawthorne uses visual imagery through the concept of “soul” which signifies how Hester and Dimmesdale have caused themselves to be punished due to violating the sanctity of their souls.

Here, Dimmesdale is fear mongering because he repeatedly states how he and Hester are doomed forever. However, this fear mongering only happens because of Dimmesdale’s own insecurities and fears. He is fearful that he will not achieve his rightful place by the side of God even though he ironically claims to be the one who is saved and that all his afflictions were by the mercy of God. Dimmesdale’s fear is proven as an unwillingness to accept the consequences of his sin and the insecurity that he will not achieve the place that he is destined to go to. Hawthorne uses other explanations to characterize Dimmesdale’s fear: “Were I an atheist,--- a man devoid of conscience,--- a wretch with coarse and brutal instincts,---I might have found peace long, ere now”(Chapter 17).

Dimmesdale uses the words ”coarse and brutal instincts'' to create a visual image of what he wished his characteristics were in order to escape his burden. Here, Dimmesdale’s desire appears to be shown through his wishful thinking, however, this line from Dimmesdale only proves that he wants to run away from his sin and he would rather be someone who is condemned in the eyes of the Puritans than confront his problems. Dimmesdale has essentially become detached from the idea of receiving redemption. He wants forgiveness for his sin, but his fear makes him believe that he has crossed the moral horizon and has performed deeds that are unforgivable. Overall, Hawthorne explores Dimmesdale’s fear towards the end of his life as the author is painting a picture of Dimmesdale’s desperation and fear as he believes that his deeds are irredeemable. 

The story of Arthur Dimmesdale is ruled by an inability to persevere and to face problems directly. Hawthorne has portrayed the idea of sticking to one’s convictions for his readers and that people should not become discouraged by anything that may happen to them.



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