The Scarlet Letter: Do You Dread Guilt?
What is guilt? We all have guilt about something. Maybe forgetting
something, lied about something, or even did something that shouldn’t of been
done. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne we saw guilt fester in the
minds and outward appearance of the main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur
Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth.
When you hear the word guilt what do you think it means? Guilt means
remorseful awareness of having done something wrong or of having failed to do
something required or expected. Does that sound about right? Guilt is
something everyone has. Its this mental manifestation that lets us know when we
did something wrong but no one knows it yet. Guilt is very powerful. Some
people after awhile give in to this guilt and confess what they did.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale commit a
great sin. Because of this great sin, it causes them immense guilt and sadness
though out the rest of the book. One of the main character’s that is affected
the most is Arthur Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale handles it in a different way though,
to him its more of a “concealed sin.” A example of this is, “It may be that
they are kept silent by the very constitution of their nature. Or – can we not
suppose it – guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for God’s
glory and man’s welfare, they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy
in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no
evil or the past be redeemed by better service.” Dimmesdale also has another
reason for his concealing, he wants to remain silent so that he can continue to
do God’s work as a minister.
Hester Prynne handles her guilt in another way. Instead of worrying
about it day after day and letting to fester, she makes it outward. At the
beginning of the book she wears the most awesome clothes and shows the world
she’s not guilty for what she has done. An example of this is, “And never had
Hester Prynne appeared more lady-like, in the antique interpretation of the term,
than as she issued from the prison.” Also she shows it with the scarlet A on
her chest. Instead of just putting some dumb A on her chest she spends the time
and embroiders it with red and gold thread and even wears the scarlet A long
after she could have removed it.
Roger Chillingworth appears at first to be the one that was sinned on
but though out the book that changes with every page of the nasties that
Chillingworth has caused. Even with the major sin of Hester Prynne and Arthur
Dimmesdale, Roger’s sins are much greater. First Roger knows that he never
really did love Hester and says he did wrong by marrying such a young wife that
also didn’t love him. But Roger doesn’t notice is second sin, taking revenge on
Arthur Dimmesdale. An example of this is, “We are not, Hester, the worst
sinners in the world. There is one worse then even the polluted priest! That
old man’s revenge has been blacker then my sin. He has violated, in cold blood,
the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!” Because
Chillingworth’s sin was the blackest his fate was the most horrible of the three.
To overcome this great guilt the character’s handle it in there own way.
Hester Prynne handles it by trying to hide nothing, trying to show the world,
see what I did and I’m proud of it! Arthur Dimmesdale handles his terrible
guilt by concealing it to himself. To overcome it he would whip himself, take
long walks into the forest, and even get in a secret interview with Hester. His
final output to the world was to tell them all on the scaffold of his great sin
on election day. Roger Chillingworth handles his guilt by not showing he had
any. Ignorance played a big part for Roger and in the end he also tells and
notices what a great sin he has caused.
What comes to the mind when guilt is said? Good, bad or are you just
plain confused? Everyone has this problems about guilt, its not just yourself.
Right? In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne guilt affected many people.
Guilt is very powerful and festers in our minds and hearts of everyone when
wrong doing occurs.