Hypocrisy Of The Scarlet Letter Essay

1749 words - 7 pages

In The Scarlet Letter Hypocrisy is evident everywhere. The characters of Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and the very society that the characters lived in, were steeped in hypocrisy. Hawthorne was not subtle in his portrayal of the terrible sin of hypocrisy; he made sure it was easy to see the sin at work , at the same time however, parallels can be drawn between the characters of The Scarlet Letter and of today’s society.

The first character, Hester Prynne, is guilty of adultery and of hypocrisy. She supposedly loves Dimmesdale, yet she says nothing while for seven years Dimmesdale is slowly tortured. The love she felt that was so strong that it made her break sacred vows must have disappeared. Dimmesdale is continually tortured by his inner demons of guilt that gnaw at his soul, and Chillingworth makes sure these demons never go away. Hester allows this to happen. Physically and mentally the minister begins to weaken, slowly he becomes emaciated, and he punishes himself constantly. Only when Hester realizes that if Chillingworth is allowed to continue, that Dimmesdale will surely go insane if she does not reveal her secret. She did not reveal who her lover was on the scaffolding when she had the perfect opportunity to; furthermore, she did not tell her husband who her lover was. Hester can atone for her sin of adultery, but every day that she keeps the secret of her lover, and the true identity of Rodger Chillingworth a secret she is committing a sin. If Hester would have, “Take heed how thou deniest to him---who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself---the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!”(Dimmesdale 47), things would have been infinitely better for everyone. Everyone Hester Prynne loves, she does in a hypocritical way. She loves Pearl enough to sacrifice to feed and clothe her, but she does not love Pearl enough to give her a father. Hester loves Dimmesdale, but she does not love him enough to expose his sin publicly, and she conceals her knowledge of Chillingworth. Either you love something whole-heartedly, or you do not. Hawthorne might have portrayed Hester in a more favorable light then the other characters, but still she should have to wear a scarlet H in addition to her A.

The second character, Arthur Dimmesdale is the epitome of hypocrisy. Hawthorne intended his name to have symbolic meaning, Dimmesdale meaning dim or not very bright. Arthur might be bright in the areas of theology, but when it comes to hypocrisy, he is a fool. Dimmesdale says very near the beginning of the book “What can thy silence do for him, except to tempt him---yea, compel him, as it were---to add hypocrisy to sin?”(Dimmesdale 47). He knows what will happen to him if he endures his sin in private, but he is too weak at this point in the book to admit it. The tapestries of biblical adultery, which are found in Arthur’s room, are hypocritical. These are supposed to help him atone for...

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